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 8th March—Until about 7 o'clock, a debate on agricultural tenancies. [column 1538]
Afterwards, a debate on broadcasting the proceedings of the House.
Remaining stages of the Trustee Savings Banks Bill [Lords] and of the Road Traffic (Drivers' Ages and Hours of Work) Bill [Lords].
Tuesday 9th March and Wednesday 10th March [11th Supply Day]: A debate on the White Paper on Public Expenditure 1979–80, Command No. 6393.
At the end on Wednesday, motion on EEC Documents R/451/76 and R/452/76 on proteins.
Thursday 11th March—Second Reading of the Development Land Tax Bill.
Motions on Northern Ireland Orders on Appropriation, Industrial and Provident Societies, Housing, Local Government and Planning and on Members' Pensions.
Friday 12th March—Private Members' Bills.
Monday 15th March—Supply [12th Allotted Day]: subject for debate to be announced.
I thank the Leader of the House for responding to representations made last week and giving us a debate on the Floor of the House on agricultural tenancies. May I ask him whether the debate on public expenditure is to be on the Adjournment or on a Government motion and, if it will be on a motion, whether it will be to approve or to take note? When shall we know its terms? Can the right hon. Gentleman also give us some idea when he proposes that the House should debate the Green Paper on direct elections to the European Parliament?
I am grateful for what the right hon. Lady said on her first point. The debate on public expenditure will be on a motion, and I shall see that it is put down at the earliest possible moment. I shall certainly arrange a debate on the Green Paper as soon as possible.
My right hon. Friend has announced that he will arrange a debate on direct elections as soon as possible, but would he not agree that the Tindemans Report raises issues germane [column 1539]to direct elections? When will the House be able to debate that Report? Will it be before or after the debate on the Green Paper?
Because of the time scale of discussion in Brussels, the debate on direct elections must be before the general debate on the Tindemans Report. I recognise the wish of the House to debate that Report, but I think that hon. Members require rather more time to digest it before we have a debate.
May I reinforce the plea of the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) in requesting a debate on the Tindemans Report? Is it not a fact that the European Council is likely to devote a large part of its proceedings on 1st and 2nd April to that Report, and should we not debate it before then?
I will look at this matter, but the urgency to debate direct elections is greater than the need to debate the general matter.
May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on producing a motion on broadcasting the proceedings of the House following representations last week? Can he give us an opportunity to debate next week, or as a matter of urgency, the Yorkshire and Humberside Regional Strategy Review “The Next 10 Years” , which is a very important document for our area? Many hon. Members are anxious to debate the position of the West Yorkshire woollen textile industry and its relationship to imports of cheap clothing and fibre yarn. I hope that my right hon. Friend will give us an early opportunity to debate the whole situation.
I cannot promise any time to debate the Review on the Floor of the House in the near future, but if my hon. Friend and other hon. Members would like to debate it in the Regional Committee this could be arranged very quickly.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is great concern in my constituency at the fact that the number of teachers is being cut in an area of substantial deprivation? Is he aware there is also concern over the fact that the Government appear to be pro[column 1540]posing to spend £15 million to £25 million on subsidising the imposition of sanctions on Rhodesia by Mozambique? Will he arrange an early statement so that the House and the country can be aware of the situation?
On the hon. Gentleman's second point, I listened to him and some of his hon. Friends questioning my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on this matter yesterday. I think there will have to be a statement shortly on the situation in that part of Africa, and when there is a need for such a statement we shall make it. On the hon. Gentleman's first point, I seem to remember listening to him making speeches advocating even greater cuts in public expenditure.
No. Get your facts right.
Mr. Cyril Smith
Can the right hon. Gentleman give us an indication of when we might have a debate on the composition of the Committee of Selection, on which there has been a vacancy for some weeks? Are the Government prepared to make any concession to the minority parties collectively by giving them a seat on the Committee?
May I also draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to Early-Day Motion No. 109, which has been signed by 91 hon. Members from all parts of the House? Will he consider the possibility of a debate on this matter?
[That this House is of opinion that the Government should impose a ban on the import of sperm whale products into this country and take all other practical steps to impose a moratorium on whaling for a period of 10 years as an essential conservation measure of great importance to mankind in general.]
It is nice to see the hon. Gentleman back again. I shall look at the procedural point he raises. I recently arranged a whole day's debate on procedure and, as far as I recollect, neither the hon. Gentleman nor any other Liberal took part in it. I shall also consider the hon. Gentleman's second point.
Is the Leader of the House aware that we require not only statements and questions on the situation in Rhodesia but a full day's debate, in [column 1541]view of the continuing responsibility of Her Majesty's Government for the constitutional position in Rhodesia?
The situation there is extremely serious. I shall see that the House is kept fully informed on this matter.
Mr. Maurice Macmillan
As the right hon. Gentleman has suggested that there should be an early statement on subsidising Soviet dominated Mozambique, could there be included in that statement the potential consequences in the United Kingdom and other European countries of the extension of Soviet domination in the rest of Central and Southern Africa?
Without accepting the premise on which the right hon. Gentleman based his question, I shall certainly call what he said to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.
My right hon. Friend has several times offered a debate on the problems of the North-West and Mersey-side in the Regional Committee, for which we are grateful. Will he not reconsider that offer, in view of the discussions held on Scotland and Wales? Cannot we have a debate on the Floor of the House, attended by a senior Cabinet Minister, to answer the problems which we raise about our area?
As I said earlier, I cannot offer any time in the near future. My hon. Friend came second in the Ballot yesterday, I believe, so he has a debate in his own hands.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that rumour has it that the grant to the United Kingdom Committee for Overseas Student Affairs is to be withdrawn? In view of the great importance of this matter, will he afford time to debate it soon?
No, I cannot offer any time in the near future. This is a suitable subject for an Adjqurnment debate. I shall pass on to the Secretary of State for Education and Science what the hon. Gentleman says.
I again draw to my right hon. Friend's attention Motion No. 211, in which more than 114 hon. Mem[column 1542]bers ask for a debate on penal policy and alternatives to prison.
[That this House, concerned by the increase in the prison population and with the overcrowding in prisons, calls for an early debate on penal policy and alternatives to imprisonment.]
Would it be possible to borrow a day from the Opposition for this purpose?
I know that my hon. Friend is concerned about this matter, and it is one of the subjects that I bear in mind. No doubt the Opposition Front Bench heard what he said. This subject would be suitable for a Supply Day or part of a Supply Day.
As today is the second wretched anniversary of the Government's accession to office, may I refer to Motion No. 260 and ask whether we can have an early debate on the erosion of freedom in this country directly flowing from the legislation of this Government?
[That this House commiserates with the former deputy Leader of the Labour Party in his realisation that his once-great Party has betrayed its commitment to the freedom of the individual; and trusts that the addition of his name to the ranks of the Ferrybridge Six, to members of the Institute of Journalists, the members of the TGWU who do not want to become dockers, and to countless individual trades unionists and non-union workers, will hasten the recognition by Britons of the hypocrisy and sham that is the Labour Party today.]
I should be happy to have a public debate with the hon. Gentleman on the record of the Labour Government and the previous Conservative Government on the subject of individual freedom.
What a good idea the right hon. Gentleman has just had. Let us have a debate on liberty on the Floor of the House. The right hon. Gentleman shall choose the day.
I offered to have a public debate outside the House, at a forum to be chosen, on the record of recent Labour Governments and recent Conservative Governments on the subject of the freedom of the individual.[column 1543]
Will my right hon. Friend take into account that many Government supporters would welcome the opportunity to debate the affairs of Southern Africa and Rhodesia so as to be able to refute some of the erroneous views expressed by Opposition Members?
Yes, I appreciate that. I appreciate the concern on both sides of the House about the situation there. We shall watch the position very carefully.
Mr. Michael Latham
Referring to next Thursday's business, has the Lord President either read or weighed the Development Land Tax Bill, which is an enormous measure? Should not a great deal more time be given to measures of this importance before they are considered by the House so that proper representations from outside can be considered?
The time between the presentation of the Bill, the Ways and Means Resolution and the Second Reading is normal. I have had no representations from any other quarter about that.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that many hon. Members feel that Greater London requires more attention from the House? There is no development agency for London. I fully understand that the Conservative Party has no time and has a loathing for our capital city, but will my right hon. Friend use his endeavours——
Order. Will the hon. Gentleman come to the point?
—to see that we get a debate on Greater London and that we form the habit, as with other regions, of having a regular debate on the affairs of Greater London?
Some of us were here for a long time last night debating the affairs of Greater London. There is a Regional Committee, and, if my hon. Friend wishes, he could arrange a debate there on Greater London matters.
Several Hon. Members
Order. Short questions from those who remain, please.
Mrs. Renée Short
May I ask my right hon. Friend once again when the ministerial reply to the Expenditure Com[column 1544]mittee's Report on the Children and Young Persons Act can be expected?
Mr. Edward Short
I cannot answer the question at this moment, but I will look into it and write to my hon. Friend.
Mr. Ian Lloyd
As it is clear from the replies given by the Leader of the House that there will not be a debate on Mozambique and Southern Africa next week, as the Commonwealth Sanctions Committee may be asking for the expenditure of large sums of public money in support of the Mozambique regime and as the regime, according to Her Majesty's Consul-General in Lorenço Marques, published in the last week an expropriation without compensation order affecting British property, may we have an opportunity to debate these matters?
I recognise the seriousness of the situation and the concern felt by hon. Members on both sides of the House. I shall bear it in mind, and either I or the appropriate Minister will come to the House whenever necessary.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that because of the Government's failure to deal with dumping there is danger of the country becoming the ash can of the world? Will my right hon. Friend allow a debate on this subject soon, especially as we seem to be losing to the Common Market control over dumping?
Without accepting either of my hon. Friend's statements, I shall keep this subject in mind.
Will my right hon. Friend give consideration to advising hon. Members how to obtain EEC documents?
I am not sure on what my hon. Friend wants advice, but if he will let me know I will give it to him.