BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
May I ask Edward Shortthe Leader of the House to state the business for next week?
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Edward Short)
The business for next week will be as follows.
Monday 10th November—Debate on Foreign Affairs.
Proceedings on the Airports Authority Bill [Lords], which is a consolidation measure.
Motion on the Compensation for Limitation of Prices (Post Office) Order. [column 614]
Tuesday 11th November—Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Community Land Bill.
Wednesday 12th November—Consideration of any Lords Amendments which may be received.
Resumed debate on Welsh Affairs, followed by, I hope, Prorogation.
May I make it quite clear and stress that this Prorogation proposal is entirely dependent on the progress of business, not only in this House but as between this House and another place. While I hope that it will take place on Wednesday, I cannot give any guarantee whatsoever that it will be on Wednesday. Subject to this, the next Session will begin, as previously announced, on Wednesday 19th November.
Before calling on the right hon. Member, may I say that I greatly deprecate questions about what is to happen in the next Session. This is a statement of business for next week, and questions about what is to happen next Session are a different matter.
Will the Lord President arrange to have a statement made on the position with regard to Chrysler before we prorogue, whenever that might be?
Certainly I shall convey that to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry. I realise that there is concern on both sides of the House about this. As the right hon. Lady knows, I facilitated a number of private meetings yesterday on this, but I understand her concern and will see what can be done next week.
As the Lord Chancellor's approach to the provision of legal representation for people appearing before tribunals is both superficial and complacent, could we have a debate on that subject as soon as possible?
Without agreeing that my right hon. Friend's approach is superficial, I shall certainly bear that matter in mind and discuss it with my right hon. Friend.
Mrs. Winifred Ewing
Will there be any time next week for a statement to be made on the Report of the Select Committee on Violence in Marriage, this being an urgent subject?[column 615]
I pointed out last week that not all the evidence on this matter has yet been published, but I have taken this on board as a possible subject for debate in the next Session.
As there might well be a hiatus in getting the Lords amendments on various Bills to this House, will my right hon. Friend give us an assurance that there will not only be a debate on Chrysler, which everyone would welcome, but that also, if there is time, there will be a debate on the new industrial strategy spelled out yesterday at the NEDC meeting at Chequers, particularly as many hon. Members on this side of the House consider that so-called strategy to be a repudiation of Labour's policy, as laid down in the 1973 programme and the two manifestos on which we fought the election?
Without agreeing in any way with what my hon. Friend said in the last part of his supplementary question, I point out that the relevant document, “An Approach to Industrial Strategy” , is, I think, in the Library and will be published.
I cannot promise any time at all for a debate on this or on the other matter next week, but I have recognised, in replying to the question from the Leader of the Opposition, that there is a great concern on both sides of the House about the Chrysler situation. I shall discuss it and see what can be done next week.
Has the Leader of the House yet heard from the Secretary of State for Trade when he is going to make his long-awaited statement on the crisis in the shoe-manufacturing industry?
No, Sir, but I did say that I regard this as very urgent, and the Government will make a statement as soon as possible on this industry, and on the textile industry as well.
Will my right hon. Friend agree that a quite disproportionate amount of time during the past few weeks has been spent in discussing amendments received from the other place—this will be the case next week as well—and will he, therefore, also agree that some very valuable time could be spent in the future on deciding what the relationship [column 616]between the two Houses should be, and whether the other House is necessary?
I replied to a question on this matter a few weeks ago. Clearly there is a discernible change in the way in which the other place sees its function, and I think that a great many of us will have to sit down, when this Session ends, and consider what has happened during this Session.
Mr. Teddy Taylor
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that half an hour ago in Glasgow the liquidator of the Scottish Daily News announced that the paper would cease publication on Saturday and that the men would be out of work? In view of the number of jobs involved and the amount of Government money invested in the project, can the right hon. Gentleman give us a clear assurance that there will be a statement by a Minister early next week?
I cannot give such an assurance. The Government have made their view on the matter clear previously, but I shall convey to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry what the hon. Gentleman has said.
Mr. John Mendelson
With reference to my right hon. Friend's reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), will my right hon. Friend consider what he said last week about possibly arranging a special debate on unemployment immediately after the prorogation, so that the House can spend a whole day on the subject? It should not be mixed up with a general debate on the Gracious Speech, as normally happens. To be fair to him, he did not give an assurance last week that he would make arrangements for such a debate, but he said that he would consider it. Has he considered it? Is he prepared to give such an assurance today?
If I do not trespass on your ruling on this matter, Mr. Speaker, I would point out that the long debate on the Loyal Address comes up the week after next, and that would be an appropriate occasion, but I shall bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said. I understand the concern felt about the matter, which the Government share.[column 617]
Sir David Renton
Have not the vast majority of amendments received from another place this Session been either Government amendments or amendments carried by another place with a view to helping the Government to reach a reasonable compromise in very controversial matters?
That is one way of putting it. [Interruption.] I am simply expressing my views. I and many other people in the House and outside believe that the other place is seeing its function in rather a different light under this Labour Government. We must consider that fact coolly and carefully when we see the end of the Session next week.
Mr. David Young
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the exaggerated Press comment in recent days in connection with a Question put down by the hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) concerning the cost of acquisition and conversion of Norman Shaw Building, North? Will my right hon. Friend comment?
I read with astonishment the comments of the hon. and learned Gentleman, who is not here today. If the hon. and learned Gentleman is to comment on the conditions in which hon. Members work, he might point out that for decades, up to the present day, hon. Members of this House have worked in conditions which no executive—and indeed, no secretary—would tolerate outside the House. Many hon. Members are today working in conditions which can be described only as squalid.
The previous Government decided to restore to its present standard the Norman Shaw Building, which is a very important building quite apart from its present function. I fully support what they did, and I hope that all hon. Members will do so. Therefore, I make no apology for what has been done. I think that the policy followed by the previous Government in this matter was absolutely right. I entirely support it, and I greatly deprecate what the hon. and learned Gentleman said, which was said in order to get a very cheap headline.
Can the Leader of the House assure us that we shall have sufficient time to debate the Post Office Order next week, given the almost chaotic [column 618]state of the Post Office's finances, the liabilities for taxpayers represented by the Post Office deficits, and the fact that we did not have adequate time to debate the last Order?
The debate is probably limited to an hour and a half by Standing Order No. 73. It will certainly have the hour and a half. I shall consider the hon. Gentleman's point.
Will my right hon. Friend consider keeping the House on Thursday, because of the expression of opinion from both sides of the House that the House of Lords has been deliberately trying to wreck Government legislation? There is, therefore, an urgent need not to leave the matter to next Session but to debate here and now the abolition of the House of Lords, which would be welcomed by the whole of the trade union and Labour movement and the vast majority of people outside.
Could we finish off a very good day, having made the decision to end the House of Lords, by discussing Motion No. 742 concerning the failure of the private sector and the suspicion of a City cover-up over the 32 private and 16 public companies currently under investigation? Does my right hon. Friend agree that that would be an eminently satisfactory way of spending Thursday?
[That this House notes with growing concern the official inquiries being conducted by the Department of Trade into the affairs of private companies; calls for these reports to be published promptly to avoid suspicion of a ‘City cover-up’; notes the chain of City failures embracing some 30 secondary banks, property and insurance companies, including: London and Country Securities, Lonrho, London Capital Group, Nation Life, Vehicle and General, Fire Auto and Marine, Jessel Securities, and others; notes the industrial failure of British Leyland, Court Line, Ferranti, Alfred Herbert, etc.; emphasises the damage caused to British manufacturing industry by Slater Walker, recently described in a book publicised by the Sunday Times, as taking capital out of industry in order to fuel stock exchange operations of dubious material and social value; agrees with the former leader of the Opposition that such activities depict ‘the unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism’; calls upon the [column 619]Government to issue an early an comprehensive statement on the involvement of Slater Walker in the Haw Par and Spydar companies; demands full information about the financial support given by the Bank of England in rescue operations to British companies; and requests an early debate to draw attention to the urgent need to extend Socialist policies to remove key sectors of manufacturing industry and important financial institutions from irresponsible and often incompetent private control.]
My hon. Friend has raised a number of points. I shall not try to answer them all but I shall stick to the first. It may well be necessary for the House to sit on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday. I do not know. We shall see how we go. We shall see what the state of play is when we come to the Lords amendments on Wednesday. As I have said a number of times, I think that the other place sees its function rather differently under this Labour Government than it did previously. We must all consider that coolly and carefully when the Session is over.
May I take the Leader of the House back to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor)? I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will make arrangements for whatever Minister he considers most responsible for the demise of the Scottish Daily News to make a statement on it early next week. These matters cannot be just pushed under the carpet and let go. We want an official statement from the Government on it.
As far as I recollect, the right hon. Gentleman was not very enthusiastic in his support for the cooperative when we set it up. The support has appeared only at a very late period in the co-operative's history. I realise that there is concern not only on the Opposition Benches but even more on the Government Benches, and I shall discuss it with my right hon. Friend.
My question was not intended to indicate either approval for or condemnation of the project, questionable as it was from the start. It was simply to say that the demise of the [column 620]venture should not be allowed to go unnoticed or unsung by the Government.
Mr. Raphael Tuck
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Normally Parliament opens on a Tuesday, and there are five days for discussion of the Gracious Speech. [An Hon. Member: “Six.” ] We have Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Monday, which makes five, if my mathematics is correct. This year Parliament is to be opened on a Wednesday. Therefore, will the debate go on till the next Tuesday?
That will be a very relevant question for the first Thursday after we come back. I should now put the business motion.
That, at this day's Sitting, the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour; that the provisions of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall not apply to the Motion relating to the Community Budget for 1976; and that proceedings on that Motion may be proceeded with after Ten o'clock, though opposed: Provided that such proceedings, if not previously concluded, shall be interrupted at Ten o'clock or three hours after they have been entered upon, whichever is the later—[Mr. Stoddart.]
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Before we start our busines, may I inquire whether you intend to select the amendment in my name and the names of some of my hon. Friends, which is an expression of opinion from the Back Benches on a Government motion with which we are to deal later today?
I am very willing to oblige the hon. Gentleman by giving him my decision. I do not intend to select the amendment.
Mr. John Mendelson
Further to the point of order of my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Corbett) about the amendment, a matter of great principle is involved, one which many hon. Members have urged upon Mr. Speaker and discussed with him over the past 10 to 20 years on similar occasions, asking that the question be considered immediately after the business questions period has passed, and not just at the moment when the appropriate debate starts. [column 621]
On some occasions, Mr. Speaker, you have agreed to consider the matter immediately it is put to you. I join my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead in asking what your intentions are concerning this amendment, which involves a matter of great importance regarding the relations between the United Kingdom and the Common Market. A Select Committee has considered that matter, about which we have little experience. We are in uncharted waters. It is of great importance that hon. Members should know several hours before the debate on the matter starts—not when the debate actually starts—whether the amendment will be called and whether it will be possible to vote on it.
On those practical grounds I appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, to let the House know your ruling now.
The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) may not have heard me say that I had decided not to select the amendment. I have considered it carefully. I agree that it concerns an important matter, but I do not think I am called upon to give my reasons for selecting or not selecting an amendment. In my view, everything appropriate to the amendment can be said when discussing the motion.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. This matter concerns an important principle. I submit to you that on this occasion it should be possible for you to give your reasons. You have often told us that you are not obliged to give reasons for your ruling. What would be the appropriate occasion, other than the opening of the debate on the matter, to elicit the reasons which have led you to make this decision? May we know the appropriate parliamentary means which those hon. Members—in my submission there are a considerable number of them—who will be dissatisfied with your ruling may use to bring about a change in procedure so that in future such amendments may be voted upon?
I have yet another reason for speaking a second time on this point of order and for asking for the reasons to be elicited. As the House well understands, we are not facing a straightforward Government Front Bench and Opposition Front Bench situation when dealing with this matter. As recent history and the [column 622]referendum campaign have shown, we have cross-currents of opinion. When cross-currents of opinion exist, there must be some reflection in the House of Commons of how those opinions are either expressed or given voice to in a vote. This is a continuing argument. When the Prime Minister was questioned recently, it was made clear that many of the arguments about the common agricultural policy and its wastefulness had been proved to the hilt. If no message can be given to the country from this House about what groups of hon. Members feel about the need for radical reform of the common agricultural policy, the House will be unable to do its work.
On those grounds, we should on this occasion have an opportunity, in addition to beginning the appropriate debate, to debate this matter and to question your ruling. Can you give us any advice to help us in this situation?
I have listened to the hon. Member carefully. Under the business motion which has been passed, the time for debating this matter has been extended to three hours, which means that there is a greater opportunity for hon. Members to take part and to state their views. Everything that the hon. Gentleman has said in submitting his point of order will be in order when dealing with the main motion.
I turn to the exercise of discretion by the Chair. Until the Standing Orders are altered, it is a matter for my discretion. The House piles upon Mr. Speaker discretion after discretion. Sometimes I wish that what I do and do not select was all laid down by Standing Orders. However, as they stand I have to select, and I do my best. Indeed, on many occasions I have selected amendments to these Orders.
Partly because of the length of debate and partly because of the nature of the amendment, I decided not to select the amendment. I am sorry. It is my fault, but it is a discretion which I have to exercise.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should draw to your attention that some of us are obviously dissatisfied that the amendment is not being called. However, it is worth noting that—according to the information which I have received from [column 623]members of the Government—had the amendment been called it was likely to have been accepted by the Government. Thus, all the opinions to which my hon. Friend has referred would have been accepted by the House, one presumes, with the motion and, indeed, the amendment. Therefore, perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) can rest happy in the knowledge that, whatever the merits of the case, and despite the fact that you, Mr. Speaker, have been unable to find time or to make the necessary decision to call the amendment, we have seemingly forced the Government into accepting the amendment and we have once again scored a moral victory.
After that moral victory, we shall get on to the next business.