HC Deb 14 March 1985 vol 75 cc444-50 3.57 pm
Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

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 MARCH—Until seven o'clock, debate on a motion on European Community proposals for the 1985–86 common agricultural policy prices.

The relevant document numbers will appear in the Official Report. Afterwards, motions relating to the National Health Service (General Medical and Pharmaceutical Services) Amendment Regulations for England and Wales and also for Scotland.

TUESDAY 19 MARCH — My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will open his Budget Statement.

European Community documents relevant to the budget debate will be shown in the Official Report. The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration at seven o'clock.

WEDNESDAY 20 MARCH—Continuation of the Budget debate.

THURSDAY 21 MARCH—Continuation of the Budget debate.

FRIDAY 22 MARCH—Private Members' motions.

MONDAY 25 MARcH—Conclusion of the debate on the Budget Statement.

[Debate on European Community proposals for the 1985–86 CAP prices on Monday 18 March 1985:

Relevant Documents

1. 4582/85 CAP Prices (1985/1986)
ADD 2 & COR 1(e)
2. 4637/85 Situation in Agricultural Markets (1984)
3. 6248/84 Designation of Milk and Milk Products
4. 11172/84 Starch production refunds
5. Unnumbered Aid to German farmers

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee

Debate on Budget Statement on Tuesday 19 March 1985

Relevant Documents

1. 10277/84 Annual Economic Report 1984–85
2. Unnumbered Annual Economic Report 1984–85 (final version as adopted by the Council)

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee

Mr. Kinnock

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. As many hon. Members on both sides of the House will want to take part in Monday's debate on the NHS limited list, the Government's decision not to provide a full day's debate for the motions is quite unjustified. Will the right hon. Gentleman give the matter further consideration so that the interest in that issue can be fully reflected in a whole day's debate?

Last week the right hon. Gentleman agreed that the proposed closure of one third of Britain's network of skillcentres was an important topic for debate in the House. Is he yet in a position to say when that debate is likely to take place in Government time?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that 50 directors of the major theatres in Britain met this week to pass a vote of no confidence in Arts Council policies? In view of that, and of the many other expressions of genuine concern, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the Government provide time for a debate in the House on the multiple problems now facing theatres, and the arts in general, as a direct consequence of Government policies?

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that there will be a debate on foreign affairs in Government time in the near future?

Mr. Biffen

I note what the right hon. Gentleman has said about Monday's debate on the National Health Service limited list. Of course, since he makes the request, that must be a matter for further consideration through the usual channels. As things are planned, the debate can run until midnight. I hope that, on reflection, he will be persuaded that that is just and equitable.

As to a debate on skillcentres, I am unable to elaborate on what I said last week. The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that this is the time of the Budget which takes up a great deal of immediate parliamentary time.

I note the right hon. Gentleman's comments upon the Arts Council policies and the excitement they have caused among certain elements. Since most of the problems that affect the arts world are attributed to the mean-mindedness of the Treasury, it is possible that they will feature in the debates following the Budget.

I take account of what the right hon. Gentleman said about the necessity for a debate on foreign affairs. In the context of the recent change in the leadership of the Soviet Union, it would be appropriate to have such a debate, and I hope to arrange it fairly soon.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

When will we get a statement on the bid for the House of Fraser company? Is it not desperately unfair to Lonrho that its bid some time ago was referred immediately to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission while consideration of a bid by some strange Egyptians has been delayed while they mop up shares in the market?

Mr. Biffen

I hope my hon. Friend will appreciate that I should like to give him a tentative rather than an authoritative reply. I believe it will be indicated this afternoon that the bid now on offer will be allowed to proceed and that the constraints upon Lonrho have been lifted.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Is the Leader of the House aware that last week 15 local authorities in England were unable to set a rate for the forthcoming financial year because of the rate-capping legislation that was forced through the House and the damage that that legislation and the cuts it will impose would do to those communities, one of which is the borough I represent in the House? Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware that yesterday, on behalf of all the rate-capped authorities that have been unable to set a rate—

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Grantham)


Mr. Corbyn

—Councillor David Blunkett, the leader of Sheffield council, wrote to the Secretary of State for the Environment asking for a meeting collectively of those authorities with the Government so that the Government's response to the massive support in those communities could be made publicly and openly? Does he not believe that there should be an urgent debate on this key area of Government attacks on the poorest people in the country?

Mr. Biffen

The hon. Gentleman presented the case that those authorities were unable to set a rate. He was interrupted by my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg), who said that they were unwilling to do so. My hon. Friend was right in his analysis of the situation. No provision has been made for such a debate next week. Since the matter refers to an authority which is also part of the constituency of the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn), he might try to push his initiative with an Adjournment debate.

Mr. Robert McCrindle (Brentwood and Ongar)

In view of the importance, both to the providers of financial assistance and to prospective investors, of the recent White Paper on investor protection, can the Leader of the House confirm that we can expect a debate on the White Paper before legislation is introduced in the next parliamentary Session? Can he say when that debate is likely to take place?

Mr. Biffen

It would certainly be desirable that there should be a debate on the White Paper before we proceeded with legislation, but I fear that I cannot be specific about the likely date.

Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport, East)

Is not the latest outburst of crowd violence at soccer matches an indication of the general discontent in society? Is it not a fact that our young people are being brought up in a land of no hope? May we have an early debate on the whole question as it affects society?

Mr. Biffen

There are many football clubs in major urban areas which suffer social deprivation which have a spotless record on the behaviour of their supporters. I do not think we should make easy generalisations about the topic. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is a matter of real interest. I take note of the request for a debate, although I cannot take the matter further this afternoon.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

I make few demands upon my right hon. Friend. Will he give further thought to the request by the Leader of the Opposition for a full-day debate on the limited list? It is of great interest to many hon. Members in all parts of the House With regard to requests that have been made before, will my right hon. Friend find time for an early debate upon the Public Accounts Committee report on the De Lorean affair, in which I have a personal interest, and also on the Silberston report and the need for the House to have a full debate so that Ministers may be aware of the views of the House on the need to renew the multi-fibre arrangement?

Mr. Biffen

My hon. Friend may not think that he makes many demands upon me. His good opinion is something I for ever nurse, albeit mostly in vain. He would not expect me to go further in response to him than I have done in response to the Leader of the Opposition on the debate on the limited list, but it is an important point.

With regard to the De Lorean debate, I gave an indication that we were looking forward to such a debate when I made the business statement last week.

As to the point about the multi-fibre arrangement, I note my hon. Friend's interest in the topic, but again I cannot go beyond what I said last week.

Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Cromarty and Skye)

With regard to Monday's limited list debate, is the Leader of the House aware that in evidence to the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments on Tuesday this week an official of the Department of Health and Social Security openly admitted that the Scottish list was completely inadequate because it had been drawn up in a hurry? That being the case, does the Leader of the House— [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am grateful for the support; it is uncharacteristic. Does the Leader of the House think it reasonable to ask the House to approve the Scottish list when the DHSS itself is admitting that the list is wrong?

Mr. Biffen

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the point. It is one of substance. So that we may have numerical perspective, I should point out that we are talking about a difference between the list for England and Wales, on the one hand, and the Scottish list, on the other, of approximately three items out of something like 6,000. I shall draw the point to the attention of the relevant Minister so that he may deal with it in Monday's debate.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)

Will my right hon. Friend's acute political antennae tell him that Monday's debate on the limited list may proceed more smoothly if the Secretary of State starts by announcing details of an appeal procedure which on Tuesday he half hinted he had in mind?

Mr. Biffen

I shall make certain that my right hon. Friend is apprised of that point.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the House that there is to be another statement and then two important debates, which must end at 10 o'clock. I ask hon. Members to put their questions briefly. I shall do my best to call them all.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

In view of the extensive effort of Home Office Ministers to rubbish the report of the Commission for Racial Equality on immigration control, can the Leader of the House give a clear assurance that he intends to provide time for the findings and recommendations in the report to be debated in the House?

Mr. Biffen

I shall certainly consider that as something appropriate for discussion through the usual channels.

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

Will my right hon. Friend accept that the football violence that we have been experiencing is the responsibility of three Departments — Transport, the Department of the Environment and the Home Office? I believe that the House is entitled to a full debate on the subject because it is of national importance. Many of us close to Football League clubs feel that we have an input.

We have read all the reports and statements. None of them is impressive. We feel that we could add to them, and we should like an opportunity to do so.

Mr. Biffen

The hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) has already asked about the possibility of a debate on the subject and I take to heart the fact that his voice is joined by that of my hon. Friend. I give no undertaking, but I note the interest in the topic.

Mr. Robert Parry (Liverpool, Riverside)

Will the Leader of the House consult the Foreign Secretary about early-day motion 504, which deals with military manoeuvres in south Korea?

[That this House condemns the Team Spirit 1985 manoeuvres in South Korea which include the mobilisation of 200,000 troops from the United States of America and South Korea; believes that these moves destroy the dialogue which was instituted between North and South Korea by talks on the peaceful re-unification of the Peninsula; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to support tripartite talks to achieve this objective.] This Government's policy, like the previous Government's, is to support the peaceful reunification of Korea. The current war games have stopped the dialogue between the north and south of Korea and have caused tension in that part of the world.

Mr. Biffen

I shall draw the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary to that motion.

Mr. Tim Smith (Beaconsfield)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his flexibility in rearranging Monday's business so that we may have a five-hour debate on the limited list is welcome? When can we expect to consider the Report stage of the Social Security Bill?

Mr. Biffen

I cannot say. The importance of that legislation is fully recognised. I hope that I will be able to give some hopeful news soon.

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, Central and Royton)

Now that the Prime Minister is scrambling aboard the peace and disarmament bandwagon, why does not the Leader of the House do himself some much needed good by inviting the right hon. Lady to make regular statements to the House about how the various peace talks in Stockholm, Vienna, Geneva and elsewhere are progressing? Why does he not encourage the right hon. Lady to make regular statements about her policy on that topic?

Mr. Biffen

I shall inform my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that she has enlisted a new and unexpected member of her fan club.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many Government Members believe that he does not need to do himself that type of good? Is he aware of the Swann report, published today? Is there any prospect of having a debate on it?

Mr. Biffen

The moment that I am released from my present toils a statement will be made on the Swann report.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

Will the right hon. Gentleman take on board the need, adumbrated by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, for a specific debate on the problems facing the arts and heritage world? It is not good enough to try to push off such matters into a generalised debate in the lost limbo of the Budget.

Mr. Biffen

I take note of that. My earlier references to the arts world and the Budget were made hopefully—but they were not much more than that.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that violence, which already takes place on the football fields, has spread to my surgery? At my last three surgeries in Leicester my wife and I have been subjected to severe disruption and threats. My ethnic community officer has been almost beaten up. Will my right hon. Friend please provide time for a debate so that right hon. and hon. Members may be protected in their surgeries when they are trying to do a job to help the community and their constituents?

Mr. Biffen

My hon. Friend has made a serious point. We spend quite a lot of time talking about the privileges of this place and the House will wish to reflect upon my hon. Friend's remarks. I hope that he will not think that I am being dismissive, but I can see no early opportunity of a debate in Government time.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Will the right hon. Gentleman have a rapid word with the Secretary of State for Education and Science and ask him when we are likely to have a statement on the future of the British subscription to CERN, the high energy physics centre at Geneva?

As a matter of parliamentary foresight, can the right hon. Gentleman cast his mind forward to Thursday when a response will be announced to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report on the Belgrano? Would it not be useful to have a detailed reply to the book published yesterday by Mr. Clive Ponting? In the absence of a detailed reply to the charges of deception, will the Government, the Prime Minister and Ministers sue?

Mr. Biffen

On the first question, lightning itself could not be faster than the transmission of the hon. Gentleman's words to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who is on the Front Bench.

On the second matter, I have not much more to add to what was said in the recent debate on the sinking of the Belgrano. I take note of what the hon. Gentleman says about the modalities that might surround the publication of the departmental Select Committee report.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Grantham)

As one who pressed for an enlarged debate on Monday, I am grateful for the extension of the debate to five hours.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is considerable anxiety in the rural areas about the proper objectives of agriculture policy? Will he consider arranging a general debate on agriculture so that we can express views about the proper range of British agriculture policies?

Mr. Biffen

Since I have a broadly similar constituency interest in the topic, I appreciate the interest in the Government's future policies. My hon. Friend might take an early opportunity to discuss the matter when we debate the common agricultural policy. We cannot discuss domestic policy without taking that into account.

Mr. Alfred Dubs (Battersea)

My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) asked for a debate on the Commission for Racial Equality report on immigration control procedures. The Leader of the House said that he would consider that possibility. Was that a slip of the tongue since two or three weeks ago he said that he was already considering the possibility of such a debate? When will that debate take place?

Mr. Biffen

I shall carry on considering.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

Does the Leader of the House recognise that by dropping the proposed debate on the limited list on Monday — which is desirable in itself to give the Government time to come up with a proper review procedure agreed with the medical profession — he would also provide an opportunity for a proper pre-price fixing debate instead of a truncated debate ending at 7 o'clock?

Mr. Biffen

The House has accepted the motion which sets the terms for debates on Monday. A reasonable and equitable judgment has been made about what are always difficult and competing claims.