BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
May I ask Edward Shortthe Leader of the House whether he will state the business for next week?
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 2nd February—A debate on Procedure.
Motion on the Community Land (Excepted Development) Regulations.
Tuesday 3rd February—Proceedings related to the Chair.
Wednesday 4th February—Second Reading of the Education Bill.
Motion on the London Councillors Order.
Thursday 5th February—Supply [7th Allotted Day]: Until about 6 o'clock there will be a debate on Communications in Wales, and afterwards a debate on the Scottish Economy.
Motions relating to the National Health Service (Charges) and (Remission of Charges) Regulations. [column 672]
Friday 6th February—Private Members' Bills.
Monday 9th February—Consideration of Private Members' Motions until 7 o'clock.
Afterwards, motion to appoint a Select Committee on Abortion.
With regard to the Supply Day on Thursday, I should be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman would make it clear that this is one of two Supply Days that the Opposition have agreed to make available to other opposition parties and that the choice of subjects on this occasion has gone to Plaid Cymru and the SNP. Second, although the right hon. Gentleman is aware that we have not pressed him for time for a debate, because of the delicate state of the negotiations with Iceland, would he say that he hopes to make available a day for a debate on fishing fairly soon, because a number of matters are becoming very urgent?
The right hon. Lady is correct on the first point. The Opposition have made that day available to the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru. On the second point, I cannot undertake to find a day for a debate on fishing in the near future, but I will bear in mind what she has said. No doubt there will be a statement some time, as soon as possible, on the Iceland situation.
Will my right hon. Friend take note of the debate which has gone on in the Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments recently about the new arrangements under the Multi-Fibre Arrangement and the fact that this year there is a fresh round of negotiations on the GATT? In those circumstances, would he agree to find time for a debate on international trade?
I cannot offer any time in the near future for a debate on that subject, but it is the kind of subject which could well be brought into other debates. However, I will bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said.
On which day does the right hon. Gentleman expect the Prime Minister to move a motion concerning the appointment of the Chairman of Ways and Means? Does he expect that to be on Tuesday or Wednesday, [column 673]and if on Wednesday, at what time? Since this is not a motion that requires notice to be given, it would obviously be for the convenience of the House if he would let us know when we can expect the motion to be moved should the occasion arise.
Just at this moment I cannot say, but I will take steps to see that the parties opposite are informed in good time about this.
In view of the great interest in détente, as shown in the questions to the Foreign Secretary yesterday, and the continued interest in the implementation of the Helsinki Declaration, will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate soon on those subjects?
No, Sir, but there will be a debate eventually on foreign affairs—I cannot say when: not in the near future—and that would obviously be an appropriate subject for such a debate.
Mr. Cyril Smith
Can the right hon. Gentleman give us a little more information about the debate on procedure? Is it to take place, for example, on some Select Committee's Report or will there be motions before the House altering the present procedure? Second, can he now advise us whether we may take it for granted that the Government have dropped their controversial Dock Work Regulation Bill?
The answer to the second question is, “No” . The Bill has of course been introduced and will have its Second Reading within the very near future. On the first point, as I said last week, the debate will be on the Adjournment. I shall hope to open the debate myself. It will be a perfectly open debate. The Government will listen carefully to the views expressed and as soon as possible thereafter bring forward terms of reference and the proposed composition of a committee of inquiry into the custom and practice of the House.
Is the Leader of the House aware that my hon. Friends and I in the SNP and Plaid Cymru welcome and appreciate the gesture by the major Opposition party in making available a Supply Day and in recognising that the Opposition now consists of several parties and not just one? [column 674]
Is he further aware that this will be the first opportunity the House has taken to debate the Scottish economy since the Government came into office in February 1974?
I am sure that the second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is incorrect.
Will my right hon. Friend say what is happening about the Select Committee on Cyprus? Is he now able to accept the amendment on the Order Paper?
I hope that my hon. Friend and the whole House will realise that this Select Committee raises matters of exceptional sensitivity. As long as it is absolutely clear that there may well be matters before the Committee on which neither the Foreign Secretary nor any Government representative will be able to give information, I am certainly willing now to set up the Committee and I would propose to put the motion above the line.
We ought to be absolutely clear that neither this Select Committee nor any other Committee can expect to receive information which the House itself cannot receive from Ministers. As long as that is clearly understood and the sensitivity of the subject recognised, I am willing to set up the Committee.
Mr. Maurice Macmillan
In view of the large number of names on an Early-Day Motion on the Order Paper supporting the speech by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition—a speech which appears to have the qualified approval of the Prime Minister, at any rate—may I ask the Leader of the House whether we could debate these matters—and not at some distant date? In view of the mounting urgency, and the degeneration of the position of the United Kingdom and the West, will the Government consider this as a matter of urgency?
[That this House warmly congratulates the Leader of the Opposition on her recent speech on defence; endorses her warning that our defence forces must be maintained at a level consistent with the threat, and with our obligations to our allies; recognises that the aggressive posture of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, its massive and growing armament and its ubiquitous subversive [column 675]activity are wholly inconsistent with any true concept of détente; and condemns all attempts by the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to frustrate free speech, either in this country or elsewhere.]
The right hon. Lady raised this matter. I suggest that she uses one of her Supply Days to debate it.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Law Officers of the Crown have given a series of stunningly complacent answers to questions about the future of the legal profession and the provision of legal services? Is he aware that there is widespread public disquiet about the operation of the legal profession and about the failure to provide legal services for thousands of poor people?
Will he therefore arrange for an early debate next week, especially in view of the fact that over 100 Members have signed Early-Day Motion No. 135, asking for a Royal Commission on the legal services and on the legal profession?
[That this House calls on the Prime Minister to recommend the setting up of a Royal Commission to examine and report on the condition of the legal services and the way in which the legal profession is organised to serve the public.]
I shall certainly discuss this with the Law Officers and contact my hon. Friend, without accepting either of the propositions with which he prefaced his question.
Further to the question concerning the reappointment of the Select Committee on Cyprus, will the right hon. Gentleman convey to the Foreign Secretary the view of the Committee at the time that, while he was willing to give evidence before the Committee—as were also the Department and the Foreign Office—there was never any question of cross-examining him on questions relating to confidential discussions between himself and the Turkish Ministers? According to what the Foreign Secretary said yesterday, this was the reason he was not willing to give such evidence.
As to other general matters of policy, the Committee have already indicated a [column 676]desire to question him and other members of his Department on them. Is that not in accord with the proper procedure of the House?
I do not think that this is the place in which to pursue this matter. Today I am only underlining the peculiar sensitivity of this subject. So long as that is fully recognised, I am quite willing to put the motion above the line and to put it before the House.
Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the reply he gave me last week concerning the Bewbush land deal in which Lord Ryder was to some extent involved? Will he take on board the analogy that has been drawn so clearly today by a Government Department in respect of another legal public figure? Is he aware that—to paraphrase the statement—if the person concerned had spoken out or noticed the problems within the company earlier, the resulting bankruptcy could have been lessened or prevented?
Therefore, on the basis that we expect public figures—as the Department of Trade suggests—to act with a great degree of propriety, will my right hon. Friend prevail upon Lord Ryder to make a statement about this matter, so that his involvement in it can be finally cleared up?
I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that the question has nothing whatever to do with next week's business, and it is certainly not a matter for me.
Reverting to Early-Day Motion No. 143, on the subject of defence and the activities of the Soviet Union, to which there are now some 140 signatures, will not the Leader of the House accept that it is the responsibility of the Government rather than the Opposition to provide time for a debate—particularly because, since then, we have had the statement or speech from the Secretary of State for Defence which, to many people, seemed to place him on the side of the Soviet Union, although, appropriately, the Foreign Secretary is still on our side?
Is not the best way of resolving this unhappy affair to have a debate and a Division, so that we can see how many members of the Cabinet want a people's [column 677]democracy and how many want a free society?
The hon. Gentleman has not pointed out that there are, I believe, as many names on the contrary motion on the Order Paper.
I repeat what I said before—that the right hon. Lady generated this controversy and that she can find time to debate it.
Several hon. Members
Order. In view of what I said earlier about the next debate, we must move on.