BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
The Business Statement—the Lord President.
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 15th March—Second Reading of the Development Land Tax Bill, which we do not propose to move today.
Motion on the Local Loans (Increase of Limit) Order.
Tuesday 16th March—Until about 6 o'clock, resumed debate on broadcasting the proceedings of the House.
Afterwards, motion on EEC Documents R/210/76 and R/253/76 on energy policy. [column 627]
Wednesday 17th March—Supply [12th Allotted Day]: The Question will be put on all outstanding Estimates and Votes.
Until about 7 o'clock, private rented housing and the use of the housing stock, and afterwards, commuter rail services; each will arise on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.
Remaining stages of the Housing (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill and of the Education (School-leaving Dates) Bill [Lords].
Thursday 18th March—Until about 7 o'clock, consideration of Lords Amendments to the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill.
Afterwards, Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill.
Friday 19th March—Private Members' motions.
Monday 22nd March—Supply [13th Allotted Day]: Subject for debate to be announced.
The House will wish to know, Mr. Speaker, that the matter of the Yorkshire and Humberside Economic Planning Council Regional Strategy Review is to be debated in the Standing Committee on Regional Affairs on Wednesday 17th March.
Edward ShortThe Lord President has made no reference to the subject for debate today. Will he first make that clear, because there may be no next week?
There is always a next week. The debate today will be on the Adjournment.
Whatever the Lord President said, it was not clear. Will he say it again?
The debate today will be on the motion for the Adjournment of the House. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be opening the debate if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, and he will make it clear that we regard this as a motion of confidence in the Government's economic policy.
Mr. Michael Latham
Concerning this afternoon's business, is the Lord President not able to draft a motion to put [column 628]before the House to express confidence in the Government?
We should be delighted to draft a motion, but under the Standing Orders of the House it is impossible to put down a motion for today. If we had to have a motion we could not debate it until Monday, and we felt that it was better to dispose of this matter immediately.
As the Minister of Agriculture last night, according to Hansard, withdrew his motion on the EEC proposals on skimmed milk powder, will my right hon. Friend assure the House that these damaging proposals will not be put into operation until they have been debated and approved by this House?
I understand that the decisions have already been taken on these proposals, but if it is desired to have a debate on this matter, I shall certainly try to find time for it.
Does that mean, then, that the Regulations which we were going to debate are now in force and are the law of this country?
As I have said, I shall try to find time for a debate on this if that is desired, but I understand that these proposals were part of the package agreed in Brussels.
Assuming that the little local difficulty can be put right tonight, could my right hon. Friend arrange in the future for some opportunity for the House to debate the very important United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, which could very seriously affect the economy of this country in the world context, and about which important decisions ought to be taken?
Certainly I shall bear that in mind, without agreeing that what happened last night is a little local difficulty. It is a considerable difficulty. But certainly I shall bear in mind what my hon. Friend said.
Will the Leader of the House confirm that the Government had decided last night to accept the Opposition's amendment on the European documents, had those documents been taken—that is to say, to disapprove of them?[column 629]
Yes, that is correct. We would have accepted the amendment. Certainly if the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends and my hon. Friends wish for another opportunity to debate these documents, I am sure that that could be found.
Will the Leader of the House undertake, on behalf of the Government, that during the debate on the motion of confidence this afternoon no Standing Committees will sit, so that hon. Members who are members of Standing Committees may be present in the Chamber for this most important debate?
I understand that the main problem was in the Standing Committee on the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill. I gather that it has decided not to meet. But if there are other problems, the two sides can consult together, and I am sure that they can reach agreement. If there are any problems, perhaps I shall be told about them.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for confirming that the Standing Committee on the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill will not sit this afternoon. We appreciate that very much.
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question concerning next week's business. On the day that the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill is to be taken, half the day is to be devoted to Government business—the Lords Amendments to the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill. Why is there to be this encroachment on Private Members' time?
This, I think, is a reasonable thing to do. It is a debate which can go on for a very long time, and I should have thought that this arrangement was quite reasonable.
Does my right hon. Friend's reply to the question by the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), on a specific Common Market Regulation, mean that, in effect, any debate we have makes no difference at all to whether the Regulations are carried into effect?
We received these documents from the Committee very late, I understand, and it is no fault of mine [column 630]that these matters have not been debated this week. But certainly if the House wants to debate them, we can arrange an opportunity.
Sir David Renton
If there is a next week, why will there not be a whole day's debate—as I believe was originally intended—on the Government's Green Paper on direct elections to the European Assembly?
We certainly hope to have a debate on that later this month. It will, I think, appear in my next business statement.
While my right hon. Friend may not be able to find time in the very near future to debate my Early-Day Motion No. 273 about the Cheltenham Gold Cup, has he satisfied himself that in these troublous days it is essential in the national interest that six hon. Members of this House should visit Cheltenham next week, as the guests of the Horse Race Totalisator Board, and take part in the jollifications there that day?
[That this House, in view of the fact that six honourable Members of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries have been invited by the Horse Race Totalisator Board to visit the Gold Cup Race at Cheltenham next week, and that employees there in a written memorandum have been advised to give the visiting delegation the big spread treatment, would like to know what the cost of this visit is going to be and who is going to pay.]
I had not realised the importance of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but perhaps, when we have disposed of one or two other immediate matters, I can look at the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Will the Lord President indicate whether the Secretary of State for Scotland, or anyone from the Scottish Office, will speak in today's debate for the Government? Would not this be a welcome deviation, since the only two people from Scotland who have spoken so far have been Members of the Scottish National Party?
Who speaks in the debate, Mr. Speaker, is entirely a matter for you.[column 631]
Will my right hon. Friend say when he plans to bring forward legislation on public lending right?
I cannot give a date, but certainly I shall do my best on this matter. The time is getting on in the Session, and we shall have to find another day for the business originally set down for today. However, I shall bear it in mind.
Does the Leader of the House recall that the last time a Government used a debate on the Adjournment as a vehicle to get a vote of confidence was in 1940, when it was used by Mr. Neville Chamberlain 's Government? At the end of that debate, some 40 Back Bench supporters of the Government abstained, and as a result Mr. Neville Chamberlain 's Government fell. Will that useful precedent be followed tonight?
It is not a very happy precedent, I agree, but I explained to the House that the alternative was to put this matter off until Monday. I think it is essential that we remove the uncertainty as quickly as possible and have the debate today, even though we are in the difficulty of having to debate this subject on the Adjournment, being unable to put down a motion.
Mr. John Davies
Has the Lord President had his attention drawn to what happened here on Thursday evening last week? On a motion put forward by the Government concerning the lead content of petrol, the debate terminated without a conclusion, and therefore no note was taken of the Government's motion, despite the fact that many hon. Members were still waiting to speak. Is the Lord President aware that that would hardly conform to the Government's undertaking to have debates before resolutions are agreed in the Council of Ministers? Will he give time for a resumption of that debate?
Certainly I shall look at that matter. Perhaps I could discuss it with the right hon. Gentleman and see whether we can find more time to conclude what I agree is an extremely important debate, in which a great many hon. Members on all sides are particularly interested.
Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Government could have put down a motion last night, and that we should not then have had to hold [column 632]the debate on the Adjournment? Will he further agree that, if he had waited until Monday, there would then have been two extra votes on this side of the House? Is not this a gutless performance by a gutless Government?
We are debating this matter at the earliest possible moment, as I have said twice already, and it is essential that we remove the uncertainty about the situation. That is why we are having the debate today.
Will the Government find time for an early debate on the Lane Committee's Report on abortion, so that this House may look at this very important Report and also talk about it in the open?
I am afraid that I cannot find any time in the near future to debate that Report.
Will the Leader of the House indicate whether the debate on European energy policy, in respect of certain Community documents, which is scheduled for Tuesday, will also include a debate upon the document on the Joint European Torus, in view of the fact that a debate on this document has been recommended by the Scrutiny Committee, and in the light of the widespread interest throughout this House suggesting that a view should be taken upon this subject at the earliest possible opportunity?
It was not the intention, but I shall certainly look at that. It is to be an extended debate, lasting, I hope, from about six o'clock until half-past eleven, because of the importance of the subject, but certainly I shall see whether what the hon. Member suggests is generally desirable.
It might be for the convenience of the House if I say that for the debate on Thursday 18th March on the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill, hon. Members may hand in to my office by 9.30 on the morning of Wednesday 17th March their names and the topics which they wish to raise. The ballot will be carried out as on the last occasion. Hon. Members should give their full names, plus the topics. Hon. Members may hand in only their own names and topics. [column 633]
The Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill includes certain Defence Supplementary Estimates for the current year, set out in House of Commons Papers Nos. 173 and 238; certain Civil Supplementary Estimates for the current year, set out in House of Commons Papers Nos. 174 and 239; and excesses of Civil and Defence Estimates for 1974–75, as set out in House of Commons Paper No. 254. It will be in order on Second Reading to raise topics falling within the ambit of the expenditure proposed in those papers. I shall put out the results of the ballots later on Wednesday 17th March.