HC Deb 24 May 1984 vol 60 cc1254-8 3.48 pm
Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

Will the Leader of the House state the business for the first week after the recess?

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

Yes, Sir. The business for the first week after the Adjournment will be as follows:

MONDAY 4 JUNE — Remaining stages of the Co-operative Development Agency and Industrial Development Bill.

TUESDAY 5 JUNE — Remaining stages of the Data Protection Bill [Lords] and of the Inshore Fishing (Scotland) Bill [Lords].

WEDNESDAY 6 JUNE — Remaining stages of the Agricultural Holdings Bill [Lords].

Motion relating to the Control of Harbour Development (Revocation) Order.

THURSDAY 7 JUNE—Opposition Day (15th Allotted Day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion on the mining dispute and the Government's failure to stand by the "Plan for Coal".

FRIDAY 8 JUNE—Remaining stages of the County Courts Bill [Lords]; Second Reading of the Mental Health (Scotland) Bill [Lords] and of the Food Bill [Lords]; Proceedings on the Public Health (Control of Disease) Bill [Lords], The Registered Homes Bill [Lords] and on the Dentists Bill [Lords], which are all consolidation measures.

Motion on European Community Documents 6386/83 and 11642/83 on combating air pollution from industrial plants.

[Debate on 8 June (Air Pollution)

Relevant documents

  1. (a) 6386/83 —Draft Directives on air pollution
  2. (b) 11642/83—from industrial plants.

Relevant reports of European Legislation Committee

  1. (a) HC 78-viii (1983–84) paragraph 5
  2. (b) HC 78 -xxvii (1983–84) paragraph 4.]

Mr. Kinnock

Because of the pressing business of the Bathgate debate, I shall ask only two questions.

I have twice asked the Government when time will be made available for a debate on the New Ireland Forum. Because of the doubts about the future of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, will the right hon. Gentleman redouble his efforts to provide time for a debate on the initiative, which will demonstrate the seriousness which I hope the Government attach to the forum?

I give an early warning that the Opposition will want a debate in Government time on the outcome of the economic summit in London. That debate should take place in the week beginning 11 June.

Mr. Biffen

The right hon. Gentleman wants a debate on the economic summit, and doubtless that topic can be pursued through the usual channels.

I noted his remarks about the New Ireland Forum. I do not think that there is anything further to add to what I said last week, although the House will no doubt wish to discuss the matter in due course. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is a great deal more durable than many other politicians.

Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

Can my right hon. Friend tell us, with as much precision as possible, when we can expect a Government statement on compensation for those who have suffered appalling damage from the imposition of milk quotas?

Mr. Biffen

I shall draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to my hon. Friend's request for a statement. As I said last week, statutory instruments will have to be laid eventually under section 2 of the European Communities Act 1972, which will allow the topic to be further ventilated.

Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford)

Does the Leader of the House feel that it is now time for a debate to ascertain whether the activities of the police in the miners' dispute are worthy of a public inquiry? Today six of my constituents set off for Mansfield because they were summoned to attend the Mansfield magistrates court to answer charges for alleged offences committed in April. On their way they were stopped on the motorway and turned back. The policeman refused to listen to their arguments and said, "The only way that you are going is back to where you have come from." My constituents could find themselves in contempt of court. Is it not time that this whole mess was cleared up by an inquiry?

Mr. Biffen

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I cannot comment on the matter to which he referred. There is a statutory procedure for investigating complaints against the police under the Police Acts of 1964 and 1976. However, I shall refer the hon. Gentleman's anxieties to my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

When will my right hon. Friend find time to debate early-day motion 769, signed by 38 right hon. and hon. Members?

[That this House calls on the Greater London Council to withdraw the experimental traffic scheme at the junction of North End Road and the Talgarth Road, which is causing extensive delays; notes that the scheme was implemented contrary to the advice of the Greater London Council's own officers and believes that this is evidence of the need to place the major trunk roads of London under the authority of the Department of Transport as envisaged by the legislation to abolish the Greater London Council which has clearly ceased to 'work for London'.]

The motion is concerned with the widespread disruption and delay caused every day to thousands upon thousands of people coming into west London because of the idiotic GLC experiment that has banned turns from the Cromwell road into the North End road. That decision was taken by GLC councillors in defiance of clear advice from the Metropolitan police and council officials.

Mr. Biffen

The most helpful thing that I can do is to draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to the point made by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Leo Abse (Torfaen)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, despite representations four years ago, repeated during Prime Minister's questions and in an Adjournment debate, the committee dealing with in vitro pregnancies has been so delayed that it has been overtaken by events? What can the right hon. Gentleman do to encourage the publication of either an interim or a final report from the Warnock committee?

As there are a great many infertile people continually being brutally exploited commercially, is it not important that we debate the matter before the summer so that the Government can prepare appropriate legislation for the next Session?

Mr. Biffen

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's deep and long-standing sense of commitment to this matter. I shall refer the points that he makes to the Secretary of State for Social Services.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)

In view of its valuable and helpful contribution to the progress of Government business, will my right hon. Friend consider allocating some more late night debating time to the Liberal party?

Mr. Biffen

As their success was gained in the absence of the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), that would have to be a condition of any such arrangement.

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

What is the rationale of having a debate on air pollution from industrial plants when a Select Committee of the House is in Sweden investigating that very problem?

On wider matters, may I ask the Leader of the House to share in the general appreciation that the reluctance of the Leader of the Opposition to have a debate on the coal dispute has at last been overcome? Will he provide more Supply days to other Opposition parties, as suggested by the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham), because if he had done so there would have been a debate on the coal dispute long ago?

Mr. Biffen

I am bound by Standing Order No. 6 on the allocation of Opposition days.

Considerable notice has been given of the timing of the debate planned for Friday 8 June. Hon. Members may wish to make their dispositions accordingly. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman agrees that it is an important Community document and that it is appropriate for it to be debated by the House.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

While appreciating my right hon. Friend's sympathy for the issue, will he treat the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) with rather more urgency, and ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to come to the House in the week immediately after the recess to make a statement on the scheme that he will introduce to alleviate hardship for smaller farmers as a result of the dairy package? Will he advise him that cessation payments, if that is the major part of the package, will not be acceptable to the dairy farming industry?

Mr. Biffen

My hon. Friend will at once acknowledge that I have been courteous and forthcoming to my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop). However, when I pass on the message I shall add to it the piquancy contained in the remarks of my hon. Friend.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

When will time be made available for a debate on the Greater London Council (Money) (No. 2) Bill? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that any delay in passing that measure seriously endangers a large number of capital projects throughout London, including a number in my constituency? [Interruption.] I hear some Conservative Members shouting, "Good." One of those projects is the urgent repairing of a central heating and hot water scheme on an estate that was left in a disgusting condition by shoddy builders some years ago, and the tenants have suffered great misery as a result of that. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the tenants living in the Andover estate are looking forward to the time when the House passes that Bill?

Mr. Biffen

The House will understand that, owing to Tuesday's extended sitting, it was not possible to debate that Bill. I have no doubt that the Chairman of Ways and Means will be looking for an early opportunity to find another occasion.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

As the Commission of the EEC now anticipates that the budget will be overspent by £1.4 billion this year, will my right hon. Friend provide time for a debate about that so that we may know whether the proposal is for a loan, an advance or even perhaps a reduction in the expenditure of the EEC?

Mr. Biffen

I shall draw the attention of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to the most important point that my hon. Friend raises.

Mr. Jack Ashley (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

Further to the important point raised by the Leader of the Opposition at Prime Minister's Question Time, is the Leader of the House aware that it is clear, concerning the payment of benefit to striking miners' families, that either the rules have been changed or the interpretation of the rules has been changed? In consequence, these families are receiving reduced benefit, and that is an absolute scandal. May we have a statement or a debate on the subject because what is happening is the lowest of the low both in terms of social security and political activity?

Mr. Biffen

I cannot comment on the premise to the right hon. Gentleman's remarks. I thought that the Prime Minister had stated the position with admirable clarity. I shall refer the right hon. Gentleman's request to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services so that any ambiguity can be cleared up.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham)

May we have a debate on early-day motion 771, about the events of Tuesday's sitting when we lost a day and found a night?

[That this House notices the appearance of Liberal members after 10 pm on Tuesday 22 May but regrets the absence of the Liberal leader.]

Can we combine a debate on that motion with shorter speeches? Clearly the only person who knew the length of the Liberal speeches was the leader of the Liberal party, who was not here.

Mr. Biffen

A pause for reflection to put the dramas of the past couple of days a week or two behind us is necessary before we can make any sensible judgment about all that.

Mr. Donald Coleman (Neath)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, although the Government may have conveniently forgotten the uprating of the death grant, the National Association of Old Age Pensioners has not? Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a statement to be made by the Secretary of State on that matter when we return after the recess?

Mr. Biffen

I shall certainly convey that request.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)

In the light of comments about difficulties in ascertaining the views of the Leader of the Opposition, and in view of his absence during the past few days, will my right hon. Friend consider taking soundings as to whether that paid officer of the House should have a question time?

Mr. Biffen

I hear a good deal of the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

When we return, will we have a statement on the visit of the South African Prime Minister to this country and any kind of deal to sell planes that has been negotiated? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, bearing in mind the nature of that regime, which is almost based on the same racial views as Nazi Germany, many people view that visit as a great humiliation for this country. To invite the chief hangman of that regime is a disgrace?

Mr. Biffen

The hon. Gentleman and I had a mild disagreement about this matter during the debate on the recess Adjournment motion. I cannot add much to what was said then. I shall convey to my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary the hon. Gentleman's sense of distaste.

Mr. Richard Hickmet (Glanford and Scunthorpe)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that Conservative Members are delighted that the Leader of the Opposition has finally decided to debate the issue of the coal strike in some parts of the country, as it will give him an opportunity to answer some of the questions that have been put to him during the past two months which he has refused to answer and especially to make clear his position on the strike's effects on the 70,000 steelworkers?

Mr. Biffen

It sounds as though we shall have a very happy time during the first week back.

Mr. Guy Barnett (Greenwich)

Is the Leader of the House aware of the increasing problem of international debt and the danger that this constitutes to the international banking system? Is he also aware of the devastating effects that it is having on the world's poor? Does not he believe that, after six months, we should have another debate on this topic, if possible before the summer recess?

Mr. Biffen

I have no plans for such a debate during the first week back after the recess, although, as the hon. Gentleman has said, that matter excites a number of people and will continue to be the subject of debate in the House.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the serious news today that another three Britons have been arrested in Libya without charge, making a total of five to date? May we have an urgent debate on the safety of all the remaining Britons still resident and working in Libya?

Mr. Biffen

I cannot hold out any hope for a debate on that topic. If any of those people are constituents of my hon. Friend, he may be lucky enough to discuss the matter in an Adjournment debate. I shall draw the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary to the point.