HC Deb 29 January 1985 vol 72 cc244-5
The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement about a rearrangement of business on Thursday. There will now be a debate on the Opposition censure motion, and the proposed debate on the Royal Air Force will be postponed until a later date.

Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

The House will recognise that this is the second business statement that we have had in two days. Whether we shall have any further business statements during the week perhaps events alone will decide. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for conceding on Tuesday evening that which he denied on Monday afternoon.

Mr. Biffen

Only the foolish optimism of the Opposition would determine the number of additional statements.

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

has the rearrangement of Government business consequent upon the announcement in any way reduced the likelihood that an Opposition day will be available next week to discuss the miners' strike?

Mr. Biffen

The topic for that day has not yet been announced.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

In view of the importance of the change in business, is there any reasonable supposition that the Opposition will turn out for the debate in any worthwhile numbers?

Mr. Biffen

That question should not be directed at me. In any case, I advise my hon. Friend not to be provocative.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

As the debate on the RAF has been unavoidably postponed, would it not be wise to have a Government statement on the revelations of Mr. Duncan Campbell in the New Statesman?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Questions on the business statement must be confined to what the Leader of the House has announced.

Mr. Dalyell

It refers to RAF spy planes using Punta Pirenas and Hawker Hunters being sold to Chile for questionable reasons, and the urgency of this is that there have been strong complaints from both Chile and Argentina in relation to the Beagle channel and the matter should be cleared up one way or another. We had hoped to clear it up during the RAF debate, but it looks as though the Pinochet Government have been aided greatly by a British Government who have said that they would have nothing to do with juntas. Let us have the truth on this.

Mr. Biffen

Such is the ingenuity of the hon. Gentleman that I am dumbfounded that he should not think that it could be contained within the terms of the Opposition censure motion.

Mr. Robert Atkins (South Ribble)

Bearing in mind the urgent decisions that need to be taken in regard to RAF matters on the new trainer and the next fighter for the RAF, will my right hon. Friend look closely at the urgent need for an RAF debate and arrange it as soon as he possibly can?

Mr. Biffen

Most certainly.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Can the Leader of the House tell us to what extent the massive amount that has been lost as a result of the miners' strike will have any bearing on the censure motion? Can he also give us an assurance that the iron lady with the plastic pound will be speaking?

Mr. Biffen

I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that if the hon. Gentleman is able to catch your eye in the debate on Thursday he will be only too pleased to make then the point that he now trails.