BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
May I ask Edward Shortthe Leader of the House to give us the details of next week's business, please?
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Edward Short)
Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:
Monday 19th January—Conclusion of the debate on devolution.
Motion relating to the Import Duties (General) (No. 5) Order.
Tuesday 20th January—Second Reading of the Post Office (Banking Services) Bill.
Committee stage of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill, which will be taken formally.
Motion on the Restrictive Trade Practices (Services) Order.
Wednesday 21st January—Motions on suggested amendments to the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill.
Thursday 22nd January—Supply [5th Allotted Day]: debate on a motion to take note of the five Reports from the Select Committee on Public Accounts in Session 1974–75, and the related Treasury Minute, Command No. 6298.
Motion relating to the Income Tax (Sub-Contractors in the Construction Industry) Regulations.
Friday 23rd January—Private Members' motions.
Monday 26th January—Supply [6th Allotted Day]: debate on a topic to be announced.
May I refer to Wednesday's business? As none of us has experience of the procedure to be adopted, and since there appears to be only one suggested amendment on the Order Paper on behalf of the Government, will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to put on the Order Paper all the suggested amendments which have been proposed by hon. Members? Will he also say whether there will be a second day for this business?[column 584]
I shall look at the right hon. Lady's first point. Perhaps we can discuss it together. There will be a second day. I propose to put down a motion suspending the rule for a period on the day provided next week. Perhaps we can discuss how much time is necessary for that.
May I make the point clear? We were given to understand that the procedure on the suggested amendment would be virtually identical with the procedure on Committee stage and that a suggested amendment would be treated similarly to amendments in Committee. That cannot be so unless the Government put all the suggested amendments on the Order Paper.
I certainly hope to do that. I said that we would discuss it through the usual channels.
When may we expect some news of the public lending right?
Very shortly. I hope that the Bill will be published and start its passage through the House very shortly.
As there are supposed to be three important ministerial meetings in Brussels next week, may we have an assurance that each of the Ministers concerned—for foreign affairs, agriculture and finance—will make statements when they return? This practice seems to be slipping into disuse.
I shall consider the hon. Member's point and see whether the meetings merit statements in the House.
Is the Leader of the House aware that there will be considerable disappointment that he has not provided time for a debate on the steel industry? In Scotland there is considerable anger that the production cuts for the British Steel Corporation have been three times as heavy there during 1975 as they were in the rest of the United Kingdom. Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he will provide an early debate on this matter?
I shall keep this in mind and I shall arrange a debate as soon as possible. There is great concern among many of my hon. Friends on this topic, as there is among all hon. Members.[column 585]
At the time of the debate on the Gracious Speech my right hon. Friend indicated to me that steel would be a subject worth debating on one of the days allocated to the debate on that speech. Since then the situation in the industry has become far more grave. If my right hon. Friend cannot promise time for this next week will he give an undertaking to look seriously at the possibility of an early debate?
I said in reply to the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) that I was aware of the concern on this subject. I shall arrange a debate on it as soon as possible.
Mr. Cyril Smith
May I revert to the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition concerning amendments to be discussed next Wednesday? Will the Leader of the House bear in mind that there are other parties in the House which have tabled amendments to the Bill? When he refers to the usual channels, will he on this occasion ensure that he is thinking not merely in terms of the cosy arrangements made between the official Opposition and the Government? Will he ensure that the minority parties which have put down amendments are also consulted?
If the hon. Member wishes to talk to me about this matter, I shall be delighted to see him. I can assure him that the usual channels are very often far from cosy.
Does my right hon. Friend intend to arrange for a debate on the Tindemans Report before the next European summit? Has he had his attention drawn to the story on the front page of The Times today concerning Monday's business? Will he confirm that any such motion that the Government will table about amendments will only follow some indication from Mr. Speaker, and that it cannot therefore be a matter for the initiative of the Government?
I shall consult my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary about the Tindemans Report to see what opportunity we can find for a debate on part of it. I am glad that my hon. Friend raised his second point because the report in The Times today is completely untrue and misleading and was no doubt intended to be so. [Hon. Members: [column 586] “Oh!” ] Of course it was. The Times, the gentleman who wrote the article and the whole House know very well the procedure we followed for the first time on the Gracious Speech. You, Mr. Speaker, will decide, no doubt, which amendments you intend to call on Monday. After you have decided and announced that, and the decision is yours entirely, I shall table a motion to enable the amendments you select to be called. That is all that will happen.
It is my intention to indicate later this afternoon, without having had the advantage of reading the passage in The Times, my decision in the matter.
Is the Lord President aware that the Prime Minister gave vent this afternoon to a novel constitutional doctrine concerning Select Committees? Will he give an undertaking that if Back Benchers seek to table a motion to insist that, when a Select Committee wants a Minister to attend, it is that Minister who shall attend and not a Minister chosen by the Government, time will be given for it to be debated and voted upon next week?
There have been many novel constitutional theories flying around this House in the last few days. I was not in the Chamber when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was supposed to have set out a new one. Hon. Members can put down any motions they like, but I cannot guarantee that I shall put them above the line to be discussed. If the hon. Member wishes to put down a motion or to discuss it with me, I shall be glad to talk to him about it.
Since there is clear evidence that many lives would be saved by the introduction of legislation to compel the wearing of seat belts in cars, will my right hon. Friend indicate that there is a reasonable expectation of the Road Traffic (Seat Belts) Bill being introduced before the Easter Recess?
My hon. Friend the Minister for Transport said in reply to a Question the other day that we intend to introduce the Bill as soon as we can find time for it.
Mr. Hal Miller
Will the Leader of the House give an undertaking that we can [column 587]have an early debate on the White Paper on the motor industry, particularly in view of the ludicrous assertion in that White Paper that the policy adopted on Chrysler is consistent with the rest of the White Paper? The absurdity of that assertion was demonstrated before a Select Committee of this House yesterday morning.
Not next week.
To what extent does next Wednesday's business depart from the procedure adopted when the Parliament Act 1911 was applied in connection with the Parliament Bill in 1949? Some of my hon. Friends are most concerned to see that this business is not strung out unnecessarily because of obstruction from another place.
The procedure I announced today is entirely in accordance with the resolution passed by the House before Christmas. It is entirely in line with the procedure decided by the House. The purpose is to keep the Bill under the umbrella of the two Parliament Acts.
As this is bicentenary year and there has been much ill-motivated and scurrilous criticism of our American allies in recent days, may we have a debate on the important subject of Anglo-American affairs?
No, Sir. I am concerned about the way in which the House will mark the bicentenary. I hope shortly to be able to make an announcement about it.
Mr. Christopher Price
May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the apparent deadlock which has occurred on the re-establishment of the Select Committee on Cyprus because of the Government's unwillingness to allow the Committee to send for persons and papers, a restriction which is unique? Will my right hon. Friend give an indication when the deadlock will be resolved?
There is no deadlock. My hon. Friend does not help his own cause. He came to see me about this two days ago and asked me to look into it. I told him that I would do so. I agreed with my hon. Friend before Christmas that I would ensure that the Committee was able to finish its business. I am looking at [column 588]ways to ensure that. As soon as I have done that, within a few days, I hope to table a motion.
I think that we all welcome the Leader of the House's assurance that the usual channels will be expanded so as to accommodate others in considering next Wednesday's business. May I reinforce the remark made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove and Redditch (Mr. Miller) on the necessity for a debate on the motor industry, including the Government's answer to the Expenditure Committee's Report? May I also refer to the Prime Minister's apparent qualification of the powers of Select Committees? If Select Committees in future are to be able to send for persons and papers, “persons” meaning only relevant Ministers, that should be made clear now.
I shall look carefully at what the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman have said. As I understand the right hon. Gentleman, he has extended a little the Prime Minister's novel constitutional doctrine. On the right hon. Gentleman's first point, I agree that the channel will need quite a bit of excavation to accommodate the Liberal Party, but I am happy to consult that party.
Several Hon. Members
I hope that the House will allow the business to proceed. Well over 60 right hon. and hon. Gentlemen wish to speak in the debate on devolution.