§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John MacGregor)
With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a short business statement.
In the light of the announcement earlier today by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, the business for Friday 13 March and for Monday 16 March will be rearranged. In the meantime, I shall be tabling a motion later today which will be set down for the commencement of business tomorrow. This will enable the House to conclude the remainder of its business in an effective manner which I trust will be for the convenience of the whole House.
The main provisions of the motion will be to enable you, Mr. Speaker, to bring the debate on the Budget to a conclusion at 10 o'clock on Thursday night, to enable Government business to be taken on Friday and to enable the House to meet at 9.30 am on Monday 16 March for Government business.
Following discussions through the usual channels, I shall make a further statement tomorrow on the detailed arrangements for business for Friday and Monday next.
§ Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)
Does not everything that the Leader of the House has just said flatly contradict the assurances that he gave my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) and the House last week? He said that we should wait and see—
§ Mr. Cunningham
Is it not also typical of this discredited Administration that, having wrecked the nation's economy, they cannot even conclude their parliamentary business without the imposition of more guillotines to bring matters to a conclusion in a shambles, just as they have made a shambles of the nation's affairs? May I make it clear to the Leader of the House that he and his colleagues should not assume that much of their outstanding business, which is controversial and which we oppose, will be nodded through on Friday? We shall go on exposing the inadequacies of the Government's legislation until we finally put their record and our alternative to the people, and we know what the outcome of that will be.
§ Mr. Cunningham
I have not finished yet.
The most important issue today is not the statement by the Leader of the House but the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith), and the sooner we get on to that business the better.
§ Mr. MacGregor
The statement that I made about business last Thursday was exactly as the business for this week was at that point. I am making another statement today because of the decision by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister this morning, with the consent of Her Majesty the Queen.
852 The hon. Gentleman is absolutely wrong to suggest that we shall end this Parliament in a shambles. We shall be ending in an orderly and highly effective way, with a programme of Government business that is very much in the nation's interests and which, in a shortened Parliament, will be largely completed. That is a sign of a Government who know what they are doing and do it well.
It was entirely in character for the hon. Gentleman to suggest that, on Friday, he and his party will oppose a number of measures that are entirely in the nation's interests—I guess that they will be taken on Friday, but that will depend on discussions through the usual channels. The vast majority of higher education institutions want the Bill that we are currently taking through Parliament. The Education (Schools) Bill greatly increases the rights and choice of parents, which is what millions of parents around the country want.
Above all, the Finance Bill contains a set of proposals that today's reactions clearly show are warmly welcomed by business, especially by small businesses. On Friday, the hon. Gentleman will be fighting vigorously the proposal to reduce the taxes of the lower-paid. That is in character for the Labour party, which is a high-spending, high-taxing Opposition, and will remain so.
§ Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)
May I start on a constructive and conciliatory note by asking whether the Leader of the House intends to make provision for the Charities Bill, on which so much has been done in another place, to be enacted before the dissolution? Does not the Leader of the House agree that no business that he can announce tomorrow to foreshadow any measure taken before dissolution will do anything to take this country out of recession? The Liberal Democrats look forward to the Leader of the House announcing in the next Parliament measures to take this country out of recession and embarking on a programme of needed political reform.
§ Mr. MacGregor
On the latter point, it is clear that the British economy is now in a highly competitive position, as the Confederation of British Industry acknowledges. The CBI is making it clear that we are much better placed than we were at the beginning of the 1980s to meet international competition and, as the world recession clears, the British economy will receive greater benefit from that due to the policies pursued by the Government.
I agree that all charities would like to see the Charities Bill on the statute book. I hope that we can attain that goal, but that will depend on discussions through the usual channels.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. This is a very narrow statement. The Leader of the House has announced that he will be making a fuller business statement tomorrow. In equity, I shall call two Back Benchers, one from each side, and we shall then move on to the Budget debate. As there is great pressure on business today, I shall have to impose a limit on speeches.
§ Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)
A very large number of Conservative prospective parliamentary candidates will want to know on which day they will be reporting for duty after the election. Will the Leader of the House tell us?
§ Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)
In warmly welcoming the right hon. Gentleman's statement as a sign of the approaching general election, may I say that it would be entirely inappropriate, in the discussions that he has through the usual channels or elsewhere, to urge the Government to use the mandate of 1987 in the entirely different political circumstances of 1992 to push through under the guillotine the measures on education and asylum, or the economic ones contained in the shortened Finance Bill? He should put those policies to the people of this country, not ram them through on Friday and Monday.
§ Mr. MacGregor
The hon. Gentleman had better await my statement tomorrow, following discussions through the usual channels.