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 9th February—Consideration of Private Members' motions, until seven o'clock.
Afterwards, motion on the Select Committee on Abortion.
Motions relating to Community Land Orders and the Landlord and Tenant Regulations.
Tuesday 10th February—Second Reading of the Dock Work Regulation Bill.
Wednesday 11th February—Supply [8th Allotted Day]: There will be a debate on the Government's guidelines on State investment in the motor industry, which will arise on a motion to reduce the salary of the Secretary of State for Industry.
At seven o'clock, the Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed Private Business for consideration.
Thursday 12th February—Second Reading of the Water Charges Bill.
Motion on EEC Documents on Agriculture.
Friday 13th February—Private Members' Bills.
Monday 16th February—Second Reading of the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Bill [Lords] and of the Road Traffic (Drivers' Ages and Hours of Work) Bill [Lords].[column 1418]
As I understand from Treasury answers this afternoon that we are to have a statement from Denis Healeythe Chancellor of the Exchequer on Thursday but that the Budget is not to be until 6th April, can the Leader of the House assure us that we shall have one or two days to debate economic and public expenditure matters before the Budget? As fishing matters are now becoming very urgent, can he promise us a day soon to debate this very serious topic?
On the last point, I said last week that I would bear this in mind and see whether anything could be done. In my reply to the first question from the right hon. Lady last week, I said that in view of the date of the White Paper on expenditure and the date of the Budget, which has been announced, it would be reasonable to have a debate on public expenditure between the two. We missed that opportunity last year, but the gap between the two is longer this time.
Mr. James Johnson
May I ask my right hon. Friend to give favourable consideration to the request last week by the Leader of the Opposition for a fisheries debate? Is he aware that at least three completely new and mortal dangers are facing the industry compared with the situation which existed the last time there was an Icelandic dispute? There is the financial crisis, the question of the 200-mile limit, and, even more important, the common fisheries policy.
I note my hon. Friend's concern about this issue, which is shared by many hon. Members, and I shall bear the point in mind. Of course, by far the greater proportion of the days available for general debate are in the hands of the Opposition, and it would be an appropriate subject for a Supply Day debate.
Mr. Cyril Smith
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the exchanges that have been taking place in Private Business during the last two days between myself and the Government Deputy Chief Whip concerning the appointment of Members to the Committee of Selection? Is he also aware that those exchanges are likely to continue unless we and the other minor opposition parties are given the opportunity to have a seat on that Committee? The Committee directly affects [column 1419]each of our members. Will the Leader of the House make a statement about this and possibly consider having a debate on the matter next week—unless, that is, he can give us an assurance that the Government will suggest that the membership of the Committee might be increased?
I have taken a very great interest in the exchanges that have gone on, but this, of course, is Private Business which comes up at the beginning of business each day. I shall continue to watch the position with interest.
Mr. Greville Janner
When does my right hon. Friend intend to provide the promised time to introduce the Bill to make compulsory the wearing of seat belts?
I assure my hon. and learned Friend that I have not forgotten the Bill. Indeed, I would not be allowed to. When there is a gap in the time-table I shall put it down again for Second Reading.
Mr. Maurice Macmillan
The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs appears to regard as irrelevant for discussion by the Council of European Ministers such matters as Soviet breaches of the Helsinki Agreement, Soviet intervention in Angola and the potential threat to the security of supply of our raw materials. Will the Leader of the House therefore give some indication that the Government recognise the seriousness of these matters by arranging for an early debate on them, and particularly that the debate should take place before the Budget? In that way they might recognise the economic as well as the political importance of what is going on.
I replied to a number of questions on this subject last week. I pointed out that the Leader of the Opposition had generated the controversy in this respect and——
That is not true.
I suggest therefore that she uses one of her days for such a debate. There is a debate on Monday on a Private Member's motion which I suppose will go until seven o'clock. It is on foreign policy and morality, and it would seem to be the appropriate [column 1420]occasion on which to raise questions of this kind.
Does the Leader of the House recall that three weeks ago in replying to a question I put to him he promised to arrange for a debate on the steel industry as soon as possible? In view of the developments since then which affect the livelihood of people in the industry, will he give some indication when “as soon as possible” will be?
The hon. Gentleman never allows me to forget what I say. I said that I would bear this matter in mind. A borrowing powers Bill will be coming along at some time and that will be the occasion for a debate on the steel industry. I note the concern of many hon. Members on this matter, and I shall bear that in mind.
When shall we have a chance soon to debate and make a final decision about radio broadcasting of the proceedings of the House?
I am pleased to tell my hon. Friend that the report will be coming from the Services Committee in the very near future. I shall certainly put it on the Order Paper and arrange a short debate at the earliest possible moment.
Mr. John Davies
Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed the report of the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs yesterday on the subject of future business for the Council of Ministers? If he has, he will have noticed the extraordinary concentration of subjects dealing with energy, all of which are of fundamental importance. As there has not been one of the six promised days this Session for a debate on European matters, would it not be appropriate to devote one such day to consideration of energy matters as they affect the Common Market?
I realise the importance of this subject and I shall do the best I can about it. The House will spend the greater part of one day next week dealing with EEC matters.
This aspect of our business was discussed on Monday in the debate on procedure. It gives rise to complications. I have noticed the right hon. Gentleman's motion on the Order Paper. [That this House deplores the inadequacy of consideration of important EEC [column 1421]measures, both in Standing Committee and on the Floor of the House; and calls upon the Government, as a matter of urgency, to improve the timing, form and nature of such debates.]
It is easy to put such a motion down, but much more difficult to find time to discuss such matters. He has tabled a very critical motion, but he has made no suggestion about how to find the additional time. This was one of the purposes of Monday's debate. I hope that it will be one of the matters dealt with by the Committee of Inquiry into Procedure and Practice. The right hon. Gentleman has raised an important question and I shall do the best I can to arrange a debate.
The House quite rightly has found time to debate devolution and economic problems in Scotland and Wales, even though there are Committees which could deal with these matters. We have a Standing Committee on Regional Affairs which tends to lead to subjects being displaced from the Floor of the House. Will my right hon. Friend consider having a debate at the earliest possible moment on regional matters, economic and otherwise, in the North and the North-West? These regions are suffering very high levels of unemployment.
I cannot promise such a debate in the very near future. It is generally agreed that the Regional Committee has permitted a great many more regional debates to take place. I believe that it debated the North-West only recently——
It is a talking shop.
If the Committee is a talking shop, the House is, too.
Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to Early-Day Motion No. 69 standing in the name of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) to which an amendment has been tabled?
[That this House regrets the decision of Her Majesty's Government to increase fees for overseas students attending British universities and colleges; recognises that this will provide only a derisory increase in net revenue, but will cause serious hardship, particularly to students from developing countries and students in mid-[column 1422]course; notes that other European countries admit a higher number of overseas students and yet charge them no discriminatory tuition fees; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take positive action to end the discrimination against overseas students.]
The motion deals with fees paid by overseas students. In view of the deep differences which exist on this important matter, will the right hon. Gentleman give time for a debate before long?
I cannot offer time for a debate but, as I have said, I am proposing to have a debate on the White Paper on Public Expenditure between publication of the White Paper and the Budget. That would be an appropriate occasion on which to raise this matter.
Does my right hon. Friend recall that last Friday a motion standing in my name on the subject of steel was not reached, largely because of repetitive contributions by Opposition Members—and that did not include the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson)? Many of my hon. Friends are extremely concerned about the steel industry. May we have an assurance that the borrowing powers Bill will be before the House within a reasonable time?
I realise the importance that my hon. Friend attaches to this matter. I have discussed it with him. I cannot say when the Bill will appear. It will certainly be before Easter. I shall do my best to make it as soon as possible so that we may have a debate on this important subject.
I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's forthcoming words to my right hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) at the conclusion of his remarks in reply to the question about a European debate. May I take him back to the question of debates on economic affairs? Am I to understand that there is to be a debate first on the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement which is expected on Thursday? Secondly, may we have a clear assurance that we shall have a debate on public expenditure at a decent interval before the Budget?
I have already answered the right hon. Gentleman's last question [column 1423]twice this afternoon. On his first point, I cannot offer a debate next week on the Chancellor's package. I understand that it will not require any parliamentary action. The debate on public expenditure will not be long after that, and I would have thought that it was therefore an opportunity to debate its proposals.
Will the right hon. Gentleman take note that we should like to await the Chancellor's statement and then we should almost certainly want a debate on the subject?
That is fair enough. I think that the sensible thing to do is to await the Chancellor's statement. The right hon. Gentleman has a great many days in his pocket as well. Perhaps if we provide one day for public expenditure, he could also provide one.
Mr. Geraint Howells
Will the Leader of the House consider providing time for a debate on agriculture, in view of the latest estimates released by the Meat and Livestock Commission, which indicate that we shall be producing 17 per cent. less beef in this country in 1976 and 7 per cent. less lamb?
There is to be a debate on agriculture and EEC matters next week.
Dr. Edmund Marshall
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the Written Answer given to me on 3rd February by his right hon. Friend the Minister for Planning and Local Government, who expressed the hope that the Yorkshire and Humberside Regional Strategy Review would be debated by the Standing Committee on Regional Affairs? Will the Leader of the House ensure that this debate is held soon?
I certainly realise the need to have a debate on this matter, and I shall arrange a debate on it. However, I think that we want a little time to allow hon. Members to study the Report rather more carefully.
Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg
Will the Leader of the House arrange to put down a motion next week to set up a Select Committee on Procedure, bearing in mind what he said in the debate on Monday—that if there were matters requiring attention he would set up a Committee—[column 1424]and the reference that I have made to him, which your predecessor in the Chair, Mr. Speaker, said was a suitable matter to go to a Select Committee on Procedure?
The hon. Gentleman has had correspondence with me about this matter. I shall certainly look at it. If there are matters to be referred to a Select Committee on Procedure, I shall propose setting up such a Committee.
Will my right hon. Friend say when the Secretary of State for Trade will make his promised statement on further measures designed to reduce the dumping of cheap foreign goods in Britain?
No, Sir, but my right hon. Friend is on the Government Front Bench at present, and no doubt he has heard what my hon. Friend said on this occasion and last week and, I think, the previous week, too.
As the Government do not seem to be aware of the particularly grievous situation facing the construction and building industry in the South-West, will the Leader of the House allow a debate on this industry on the Floor of the House as early as possible?
No, Sir. I cannot offer time in the near future, but this again would be a very suitable subject for any of the days that the Opposition have for general debates.
In view of the urgent problems highlighted by the Runnymede Trust and others, will my right hon. Friend say when the forthcoming Race Relations Bill will be introduced into the House, and will he give some sort of time scale for the fusion of the Race Relations Board with the Equal Opportunities Commission?
That is part of the new arrangement under the Bill, but certainly the Bill will be introduced before Easter. I am sorry that I cannot give the precise date, but it will be before Easter.
Mr. Paul Dean
Does the Leader of the House recollect that the House passed a resolution last Friday calling for measures to alleviate the burdens on the self-employed and the small business? May I ask him on what day next week we can [column 1425]expect a statement from the Government with a view to implementing that resolution of the House?
I have announced that there will be a statement on Thursday, when we shall announce our measures to alleviate the burdens on the unemployed. Certainly the Chancellor of the Exchequer will bear in mind the resolution that was passed last week.
Will the House be given an opportunity of discussing the Report of the Services Committee which recommends the removal of Members' secretaries who are at present working in Westminster Hall to the Interview Floor, where they will never see daylight during working hours?
As I understand it, this was approved a very long time ago, and the work is in hand now.
Mr. Tim Renton
The Lord President will be aware that in the debate on procedure on Monday a number of comments were passed on the public service. Will the Lord President find time for a debate in the House on the Civil Service—on its growth, its pay and pensions, and its relationship with Ministers?
I cannot promise any time for that, but I notice that a Select Committee is about to carry out a study of the Civil Service.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Regional Affairs Committee, to which he referred earlier, is not attended by chief Ministers and that this is one of the main reasons why many of us feel that it is a waste of time to attend that Committee?
These are Committees to which any Member of the House can go. The whole membership of the House can go along, and the debate is always answered by a Minister. However, if there are special difficulties about that, perhaps my hon. Friend will talk to me, and I shall be happy to see what I can do.
Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State for Employment to make a statement on the Linwood settlement, because many hon. Members and people outside the House are curious to know how that is alleged to fall within the £6 limit?[column 1426]
I shall certainly pass on to my right hon. Friend what the hon. Gentleman has said.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the many reports in the Press and the report on the radio this morning about the dumping of over 10,000 men's suits into this country from East Germany, at the ridiculous rate of £4.80 each? Is he aware of the effect on employment in West Yorkshire in the clothing and textile industries? Will he arrange an emergency debate on this matter next week?
I cannot offer a debate about it, but my right hon. Friend has certainly seen these reports and he is investigating the matter urgently.
Will the Lord President try to persuade his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to publish the cash limits for public expenditure in 1976–77 before we have the debate which he has promised on the public expenditure White Paper, so that that debate can be a fully informed debate?
I think that the debate will be certainly a fully-informed debate. When the hon. Gentleman reads the White Paper on public expenditure he will be very fully informed.
Sir Frederic Bennett
The right hon. Gentleman will have heard the earlier exchanges about the Falkland Islands. I wonder whether next week, on a topic that was not touched upon, he could arrange for a very short statement to be made about the completion of a genuinely international airport there, capable of taking international traffic, which would do a great deal to cool the situation and would be a method of maintaining communications other than by sea. One could think of no quicker way to establish a better situation. May we have a short statement saying how close we are to establishing there a genuinely international airport?
I know that the hon. Gentleman has been interested in this matter for a long time. I shall pass on to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what he has said.
Sir George Young
When is it proposed to re-establish the Select Committee on Violence in Marriage?[column 1427]
I am looking at this matter at present and at the possibility of making it rather wider, but certainly I hope to have something to say about it in the very near future.