BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Business Statement—the Lord President.
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)
The business for next week will be as follows:
Monday 5th July—Supply [27th Allotted Day]: there will be a debate on immigration, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.
Consideration of EEC Document R/2274/75 on Sheepmeat Régime.
Tuesday 6th July—Motion on the White Papers on Pay and Prices Policy and the related Orders. [column 659]
Motion on Compensation for Limitation of Prices (British Gas Corporation) Order.
Wednesday 7th July—Supply [28th Allotted Day]: Conclusion of the debate on pay and prices policy.
Consideration of EEC Document R/3070/75 on Units of Measurement.
Thursday 8th July—Remaining stages of the Race Relations Bill.
Friday 9th July—Debate on the First Report of the Select Committee on Direct Elections To The European Assembly, House of Commons Paper No. 489.
Consideration of EEC Documents R/1361/73 and R/877/75 on Public Service Contracts.
Monday 12th July—Private Members' motions until seven o'clock.
Afterwards, Third Reading of the Development Land Tax Bill, and remaining stages of the Iron and Steel (Amendment) Bill.
I should like to raise just two points. The first is about the debate on Tuesday and Wednesday on pay and prices policy. On what motion will that debate be held? Will Michael Footthe Leader of the House make clear that the second day is a Supply Day which is only lent and not given, and that the Opposition would like it back, please? The Government are used to borrowing, so we want a little repayment.
The second point is that, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, the situation with regard to water supply is very serious indeed. Will he arrange for a statement to be made next week so that we know what emergency action should be taken before an emergency occurs?
I thank the right hon. Lady for both of her questions. I shall certainly try to return anything that we borrow, but I cannot promise to do so next week. Certainly I acknowledge that the Opposition have assisted us with the offer of a Supply Day to enable the House to have the two-day debate, which is of assistance to everyone. The debate would be, I think, on a “take note” motion. although obviously amendments could be put down if that were desired by the Opposition or anyone else. Then there [column 660]are the related Orders which, although I have set them down on the Tuesday, I imagine, if it were wished that they be voted upon, could be voted upon on the Wednesday.
I hope that a statement will be made to the House tomorrow about the drought.
With his remarkable command of English, will the Leader of the House explain a little more about “sheepmeat régime” ? My constituents know about sheep, meat and régime. Is the phrase a direct translation from some Common Market document, or does it mean a diet for those who have to eat sheepmeat?
I do not think that it has anything to do with diet. I think that the phrase is due to the language used in Brussels, which we have to use in the House of Commons.
What form will the debate on Monday take on immigration? Will that be on a Government motion?
It will be on the Adjournment. It is a Supply Day. It is a subject chosen by the Opposition.
As the Leader of the House must be aware that the Council of Ministers has decided to change the proposals in the EEC document in relation to sheepmeat, would it not be more sensible to have a debate on that subject when the Council's present proposals have been produced so that we can get down to the new situation?
If that is more convenient for the House, we shall do that. We were recommended by the Scrutiny Committee to have this debate, but if it is more convenient to have the debate at a later stage, we shall see whether we can do that—although there have been requests from the House that we should have some of these debates earlier.
Mr. Hugh Jenkins
Once again there will be great disappointment that the Public Lending Right Bill is not included in the business for next week. Is my right hon. Friend aware that this is a matter that is not in contention between the two Front Benches? Is he further aware, therefore, that we could do with some non-contentious business? Would it not be a very good time to put in that [column 661]business? There have been occasions over the last two or three weeks when it could have been slipped in and we could have taken it. Why not take the opportunity now?
I fully share my hon. Friend's disappointment that we have not proceeded further with the Bill, but, once again, I give him the assurance that I have given him on two or three previous occasions. This is a Government measure that has the full backing of the Government and we wish to press ahead with it as soon as it is convenient for the House to do so.
Mr. Donald Stewart
Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that there was great resentment in the fishing communities at the betrayal of their interests by the original Tory negotiators before we entered the Common Market and that this was compounded by their Labour successors by fishing not being on the agenda in the renegotiations? Following the pusillanimous and unacceptable statement by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food this week, does the Leader of the House agree that it is now essential that we should have a debate on fishery limits as quickly as possible?
I am sorry that I cannot promise a debate on this important subject. I fear also that I cannot accept all the adjectives used by the hon. Gentleman. A statement was made on the subject by my right hon. Friend. We shall have to see what are the possibilities of a debate later.
When will the Order giving effect to the EEC directive on eviscerated chickens be laid before the House? Will it be subject to the affirmative or the negative procedure?
I cannot yet give a date. I know that there is considerable feeling in many parts of the House about this matter and a desire that it should be debated, but we shall have to see what are the possibilities for a debate.
Mr. John Davies
Returning to the subject of sheepmeat, the Leader of the House will no doubt be aware that since the Scrutiny Committee recommended this matter for debate, his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture has, in evidence to the Scrutiny Committee, made it [column 662]abundantly clear that there were to be substantial changes to this particular proposal. Surely it would be wiser to wait until those substantial changes have been made and laid before us.
There are some problems about the time that we would have available for debates later, but I fully acknowledge what the right hon. Gentleman said. Since in particular the Scrutiny Committee, over which he presides, has given us so much assistance on this matter, when he makes that suggestion I shall certainly give it serious consideration.
Does my right hon. Friend recollect that last week various representations were made to him about medical facilities for urgent cases in the House? What would any of us say about a factory employing 3,000 people in any of our constituencies which did not have at any rate normal nursing facilities? Considering the number of Members, visitors, journalists and all those who work in this place, is it not a scandal that something is not done about this matter?
I quite agree. Following the representations made to me a week ago, in particular by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Prescott) and my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Gould), we have taken some steps. I hope that by the beginning of next week we shall have some facilities provided in the House, with a State-registered nurse and facilities on the premises. I hope that they will be in operation at the beginning of next week, on a temporary basis. Thereafter, as soon as we can we shall have them on a permanent basis. That is what the House would want. Certainly we have got on with it as fast as we could.
Why did we not have the usual statement yesterday on European business for July? Instead, there was a rather unsatisfactory Written Answer—in column 102 of Hansard—merely saying that a forecast of the business had been deposited in the Library. Will the right hon. Gentleman see whether we could go back to the former practice?
When is it likely that the House will have a chance of debating the considerable volume of paper which has been generated by the Department of the Environment—concerning rates, water and [column 663]transport? All three are awaiting the attention of the House.
On the first question, I am not sure whether the commitment of the Government to have a statement on the EEC business ahead is absolute. I know that there have been statements on most occasions. If the commitment is absolute, I shall certainly see why it was not honoured on this occasion. I thought that there was some possibility of variation, but I shall examine the matter.
I shall not comment on each of the other matters raised by the right hon. Gentleman because I think that they have been raised previously. I cannot promise immediate debates on all those different subjects, although obviously they are all important subjects that will have to be debated in the House before we can proceed to legislation on them.
Does the Leader of the House accept that there are many who do not necessarily take the Government's view that the best way of obtaining representation for members of occupational pension schemes is through trade union representation? May we have a debate on this subject and the subject matter of the White Paper before the Government introduce legislation?
I cannot promise an early debate on this subject. I know that there is great interest in it in the House. The White Paper is being published. There is widespread discussion on the subject and I am sure that there will be plenty of time for full discussion before we come to laying legislation before the House.
Will my right hon. Friend arrange for a statement to be made by the Secretary of State for Industry or the Secretary of State for Trade about the use of selective import controls, because as investment is needed for British industry, we want some of that industry left in which to reinvest?
Does my right hon. Friend think that this is the weather to take a long cool look at the House of Lords, which he has been promising for some time, because we are facing obstruction on the Floor of this House and I am sure we shall face obtruction on the Floor of that House over some controversial legis[column 664]lation? Can he now say whether we shall reassemble on 1st September and get the backlog of legislation out of the way? Does he not think that we should have a short summer break and come back to work early?
Obviously the question of selective import controls is one of major economic policy. I cannot promise any statement on the subject although it could enter into the discussions which will take place on economic policy over the next few weeks. I am sure that some of my hon. Friends will take the opportunity to raise it.
In respect of a long cool look at the House of Lords, I cannot promise that we shall have a House of Lords (No. 3) Bill before the end of the recess. I do not believe that that would speed up the process. The House of Lords will have to take the legislation which we send from this House and, undoubtedly, very important legislation will be going to the House of Lords in the near future. I hope that the House of Lords will understand that this is legislation which comes from this elected House of Commons.
As for the date of 1st September, I do not have any statement to make on that subject. What I have said before is that it is the Government's intention to suit the convenience of the House as much as we possibly can but also to ensure that our legislation will be carried through.
Mr. St. John-Stevas
In view of the humiliating collapse of the Government last night in respect of the Education Bill, and the fact that no mention has been made of the Education Bill at all in next week's business, does this confirm the rumour going around the House that the Government will now drop this unwanted Bill?
The hon. Gentleman must be the only Member of this House who is unwise enough to believe so foolish a rumour. There is, of course, no possibility that the Government will drop the Bill. What we hope is that we shall make considerable progress on the Bill today. We are providing plenty of time for the Bill, and I hope that we shall make more progress than we made yesterday. There was certainly no humiliation of the Government yesterday. We won [column 665]all the debates and all the votes. Unfortunately, there were not as many votes as we would wish, but we hope that that will be remedied in future.
Would my right hon. Friend not agree that a more accurate answer to the question put to him by the acting Leader of the Liberal Party, in respect of the sheepmeat regime, would have been for him to explain to the House that the real meaning is that we can have a huge surplus mountain of mutton and lamb in the same way as we have in respect of beef, butter and milk powder?
If I had replied in those terms I might have been accused of introducing a controversial note, and the House knows how loath I am to do that.
Sir Frederic Bennett
The Leader of the House will probably have noticed the Early-Day Motion directing our attention to the presence in the country of a visitor from the Soviet Union which is just about as distasteful as that of Mr. Shelepin. Would the right hon. Gentleman care to make a statement on this matter, including not just this specific matter, but a more general one which would clarify the criteria on which this Government seem to admit some people to this country and not others? They are criteria which the rest of us find totally incomprehensible.
[That this House deplores the welcome extended by Her Majesty's Government to Professor Marat Vartanyan, selfconfessed exponent of the use of psychiatry, including the compulsory administration of dangerous drugs and enforced detention in mental institutions in order to bring about the so-called political reform of dissidents, and the Kremlin's chief expert in this detestable perversion of medical ethics and practice; condemns the rôle, in particular, in his sustained persecution of Professor Bukovsky, endangering his life; and regards Her Majesty's Government's action as yet another shocking example of politically-motivated double standards, when looked at in the context of its recent refusal of entry to young Rhodesians to play cricket here solely on grounds of disapproval of some of their home government's political policies.][column 666]
I certainly do not accept the terms of the motion in the name of the hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends. The gentleman to whom he refers is not in this country as a guest of the British Government. He is here as an individual, and that raises no question of political decisions such as the hon. Gentleman is suggesting. The hon. Gentleman's motion compares that visit with the Rhodesian situation, and the Rhodesian visit, but that was a question of giving support to an illegal régime. I am sorry that a motion giving comfort to an illegal régime should have been placed on the Order Paper by those who are supposed to uphold law and order.
Mr. Raphael Tuck
Can my right hon. Friend tell the House who is the Secretary of the Services Committee so that we can have a go at him before prices rise any further? I had to pay 25p for one baked apple.
I do not know whether I am responsible for my hon. Friend's apple but I am responsible for the Services Committee. If he wants to have a go at anyone on this subject he must have a go at me.
Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that amendments to the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill, which will be necessary to give effect to his undertakings to the Scottish and Welsh National Parties, will be put down in good time so that these privileges may be examined to see whether they are not, in themselves, giving rise to further hybridity?
I am sure that such a possibility will not arise. Of course, we shall put down amendments in good time so that the House can discuss them. That is the proper way to proceed. It is most unfortunate that an Early-Day Motion should have been put down criticising those who had discussed the matter in the debate but we shall have time to discuss this matter further. That is what I said in reply to the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson), who interrupted me during the debate, and that is the normal procedure in the House.
[That this House deplores the conduct of the Scottish and Welsh Nationalist Members of Parliament in declining to cast their votes at the end of the debate [column 667]on Aircraft and Shipbuilding Nationalisation on 29th June; is amazed that their change of heart was secured by an ambiguous and threadbare series of so-called assurances; notes with concern the prospect of a further extension of nationalisation which has already done so much damage to vital Scottish and Welsh industries like steel; expresses its contempt for political parties which seek to gather support on the basis of facing all ways on vital issues which affect the Scottish and Welsh nations and their peoples; and questions the concern for their country of Members of Parliament who refuse to vote against proposals to spend £300 million of taxpayers' money on nationalisation at a time when vital social services are being cut back because of shortage of public funds.]
If the debate on sheepmeat is to be postponed, may we at least have an assurance that the Minister of Agriculture will not sell the pass in Brussels before the debate is held?
I cannot accept such language, of course, but I understand that my right hon. Friend would desire that a debate on the matter takes place before decisions are taken at Brussels. That is the general term af the undertaking which has been given by the Government. My right hon. Friend knows that there has been some qualification of this, but that is what we are seeking to carry out.
Mr. Peter Mills
Returning to the regulation about poultry health, why cannot the Government bring this Order before the House? Does the Leader of the House realise that many poultry farmers, and those connected with the industry, are deeply concerned about this and must know where they stand? If I may say so, even the birds would like to know whether they will be eviscerated.
I will see what are the chances of bringing the Order forward for discussion.
Can the Leader of the House promise a debate on the interim report of the Royal Commission on the Press before the recess?
I am sorry but I cannot do so because the time before the recess is taken up with extremely urgent business, [column 668]and I cannot promise debates on many important subjects such as that raised by my hon. Friend.
Has the Lord President noticed, perhaps because of the weather, or because of the Government's legislative programme, that a great many Members on both sides of the House have fallen to discussing the possible dates for the recess? Would he not agree, particularly for those hon. Members who have children at school, and family commitments, that it would be highly desirable if we did not behave in this somewhat odd way over the options open to the Government in this matter? Would he not agree that it would be better if he said early what the Government's intentions were concerning rising, and a possible return in September, or a possible extension of the Session beyond the normal time in October if the Government think fit?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman—particularly because of the representations which are made by those who have their family holidays fixed. I certainly appreciate that this is one of the factors which the Government have to take into account. The Government have difficulties of their own, too. I have already indicated that there will be a statement tomorrow about the water situation, and that may involve some extra time. That has to be taken into account, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that the matter he has raised is one of the considerations that we are taking into account. Of course I would like to announce the dates much earlier, but I am sure the House appreciates what the difficulties are.
Several Hon. Members
Order. May I appeal to the House? If hon. Members will ask crisp questions I will try to get everyone in, but I can only try.
Mr. George Cunningham
Does my right hon. Friend remember that it is about five weeks since the House set up the Sessional Committee on Procedure, the normal Procedure Committee, and that it is not free to do anything at all, even to meet, until the House refers some subject to it? Exactly why has my right Friend not brought forward a motion to [column 669]refer anything to that Committee yet? Will he do so soon?
My hon. Friend has a very good grievance. We should have put forward some of those proposals and I will do my best—I will not say to satisfy him, because that is always difficult—to go some way to satisfying him next week.
Will there be an early Bill to ratify the European Patent Convention? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the European Patent Office will open in Munich early next year and that United Kingdom patent agents stand to lose about 10,000 patent applications unless we ratify by then, with a possible loss of £10 million turnover to this country?
I appreciate what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said. The matter has been raised with me. I cannot promise immediate legislation on the subject, but I appreciate the importance of the matter.
Mr. Frank Allaun
Following the conviction of Jersey Aviation Limited for supplying £1¼ million-worth of arms from the MoD depot at Chigwell to South Africa, may we have—in fact, are we not entitled to—an immediate statement from the Secretary of State for Defence, since his Department must have known the ultimate destination and if it did not know, it should have known, and was guilty of gross negligence? As there are other serious allegations of arms being supplied from this country to South Africa, are we not entitled to a statement from the Secretary of State?
I will ask my right hon. Friend whether he will consider a statement in the light of what my hon. Friend has said.
If the right hon. Gentleman decides to defer the debate on Monday on the sheepmeat régime, would he seriously consider using the time to try to complete the Road Traffic (Seat Belts) Bill—[Hon. Members: “No!” ]—bearing in mind that we have almost reached the end of that Bill and that it could be disposed of quite quickly?
The hon. Gentleman may have noted that his proposal has not met with immediate unanimous acceptance. [column 670]I shall consider the suggestion, but if we postpone—as we probably should—the sheepmeat régime discussion, we shall have to see what is the best course for the House.
On Friday week, 9th July, my right hon. Friend has said that there will be a debate on direct elections and EEC documents on public service contracts. What is the nature of the motion that he will table?
It will be a “take note” motion.
Mr. Eldon Griffiths
In view of the Prime Minister's change of mind about the Official Secrets Act and the general wish of the House that this legislation should be reformed, will the Leader of the House arrange before the recess for a short debate on that Act? Before he replies, may I put one crisp point to him? Many of us recall how difficult it was to persuade the United States to give us access to nuclear secrets because of their concern about British security. As long as this matter is hanging around unanswered, there will be feelings in Washington, justified or otherwise, that there still may be a “sleeper” in Whitehall willing to give Western military secrets to our mutual enemies.
I think that the Prime Minister has dealt with the general matter in a way satisfactory to the House as a whole. I cannot promise a debate on the Official Secrets Act in general before the recess, but clearly what the Prime Minister has said is that fresh consideration is to be given to the question whether there should be legislation on the matter. The favourable reply that he has given on that subject is helpful and of course legislation would mean a debate in the House.
Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to the Early-Day Motion, signed by nearly 100 hon. Members on this side, calling for an early statement by the Government on their acceptance of the principle of the need for decasualisation in the fishing industry? Is he aware of the deep resentment on Humberside and in the fishing ports that the Government failed to make this announcement as part of the statement on Monday?
[That this House welcomes the statement of the Minister of Agriculture, [column 671]Fisheries and Food that the Government will discuss with the unions and employers the feasibility of an arrangement for compensation for those fishermen directly affected by the Icelandic settlement who, because they do not have regular contracts of employment, are denied the benefits they might have otherwise received under the Redundancy Payments Acts: reminds the Government that this situation would not have arisen if fishermen enjoyed the same terms and conditions of employment as shore-based workers; and calls upon the Government to declare its commitment to the immediate decasualisation of the fishing industry and to initiate discussions with the Transport and General Workers Union and the vessel owners to ensure that objective.]
I know that there are considerable feelings on this subject. When I was at the Department of Employment I took part in discussions with the Ministry of Agriculture on the possibilities of decasualisation. In view of the number of the signatories to that motion, I recognise that there is strong feeling on this side on the matter. I cannot promise immediate action but I am sure that the Government will recognise that this is the line on which my hon. Friends wish us to proceed.
In view of the grave situation facing the shoe manufacturing industry, which situation is going on and on, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for the Secretary of State for Trade to make an early statement on what he is doing about it, if anything?[column 672]
I cannot promise an early statement. My right hon. Friend has made statements on the subject, I understand, in the not-too-distant past, but I shall see whether a fresh statement is required.
Mrs. Winifred Ewing
In considering the date of the recess, may I take it that the Lord President understands that Scottish school children get their holidays at the end of June and go back to school on 14th August? Will he bear that in mind when he tries to take us into August?
I am not sure whether it is more beneficial to the House that we should have the hon. Lady's presence or her absence. Sometimes it is one, sometimes the other, and we shall try to work the matter out conveniently for both of us.
Mr. Arthur Lewis
Has my right hon. Friend seen the three Early-Day Motions signed by one of the most important Members of the House, drawing attention to the hundreds of millions of pounds per year which are being paid out to Members of the House of Lords on a part-time basis? They are drawing thousands of pounds each in expenses which could be cut without hardship or suffering for anyone. When the Government consider any such cuts, will they make these as quick and severe as possible? Hon. Members on this side would give 100 per cent. support to such action.