BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
The Lord President—Business Statement.
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 20th June—Supply [23rd Allotted Day]: A debate on housing in England and Wales.
Remaining stages of the New Towns Bill.
Motion on the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (The United States of America) Order.
Tuesday 21st June—Progress on the remaining stages of the Price Commission Bill, which it is hoped to complete by about 7 o'clock on Wednesday 22nd June, when it will be followed by proceedings on the Restrictive Trade Practices Bill.
Thursday 23rd June—Supply [24th Allotted Day]: There will be a debate on fisheries policy, when the following EEC Documents will be relevant: R/1173 and 1174/77 and S/779/77.
Motion on EEC Documents R/1125 and 1149/77 on monetary compensation amounts.
Friday 24th June—Remaining stages of the Coal Industry Bill.
Motion on EEC Document R/2655/76 on illegal immigration and employment. [column 574]
Monday 27th June—Supply [25th Allotted Day]: subject for debate to be announced.
Can Michael Footthe Leader of the House add to that the communication on the direct elections Bill which we were promised?
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has already made a communication to the House. The Bill will be presented on Thursday or Friday next week.
Whose names will be on the back of the Bill?
I suggest that on all matters connected with the Bill the right hon. Lady should follow normal practice and await the Bill.
Can the Leader of the House say whether, if the Bill gets a majority on Second Reading, it will proceed in Committee and whether an attempt will be made before the Summer Recess to decide on the method of election to be adopted?
It would be an extraordinary departure from our normal custom when announcing the presentation of a Bill to go into such details. It is better to stand by the normal practices of the House in these matters.
Mr. Michael Latham
May we have a debate on Cabinet Government so that we may know which Bills are supported by Ministers and which are not?
There are opportunities of discussing such matters. I thought that I should have a unanimous vote of thanks from Opposition Members, who have been asking about the Bill for weeks. I thought that at least I should have been thanked by the right hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher).
May I draw attention to the all-party Early-Day Motion No. 328 which attempts to get conciliation rather than escalation of the conflict that has occurred this week at the Grunwick factory, in view of the fact that it is not posible to discuss this under the sub judice rule?
[That this House, believing that conciliation is better than confrontation, urges the management of Grunwick Processing [column 575]Laboratories Ltd. to accept the rule of law as embodied in the Employment Protection Act 1975 and to implement without further delay Report No. 19 of the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service made under section 12 of that Act by getting round the table with the trade union concerned which has already accepted the principle of arbitration.]
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understand that this matter is sub judice.
Order. What is sub judice—and it definitely is—is the question of the pickets and the police, since there are cases arising out of it. The issue of the strike cannot be sub judice, but the question of the pickets and the police is sub judice.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understood from the Table Office that no further matters relating to the Early-Day Motion were acceptable because it was sub judice.
Order. I have every respect for the Table Office, but I am in the Chair.
As I was saying, because this matter is sub judice we are not able to discuss it next week. May I therefore ask my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House whether he will consider discussing with the Cabinet means of stopping the impasse in the same way as when there was an industrial dispute concerning doctors? On that occasion, Lord Goodman was called in and a solution was found which prevented the two sides from getting into conflict.
My hon. Friend and the House understand that I cannot comment on any matters which are sub judice, but I have seen the motion in the name of my hon. Friend and signed by hon. Members in all parts of the House. I certainly welcome what is said in that motion, and the support from all parties for the proposition that conciliation is better than confrontation is most welcome. I therefore welcome the motion, [column 576]but I cannot say anything further about the matter now.
As the Lord President has failed in his attempt to get a devolution Bill through the House, will he now give priority to introducing a referendum Bill so that we can more accurately assess the requirements of the Scottish people for devolution or for independence, and so that, armed with the results, he can quell the rebels in his own ranks?
It is quite true that at the first attempt we failed to get the devolution Bill through, but we are now following the excellent advice of a great Scotsman, and I shall try and try again. I hope that I shall have the support of all Scotsmen in carrying it through.
May we have an assurance from the Leader of the House that the fact that the Windscale inquiry is taking place will in no way inhibit us in having a debate, as we should have now that the statement has been made by the Government, upon the Flowers Report? In view of the fact that that report is probably the most fateful report that we have received in this generation, on a matter likely to erode—as has been shown, if we have a plutonium economy—so many of our civil liberties and so much of our way of democracy as we know it, is it not urgent that the House begins to debate the issue?
I fully accept what my hon. Friend says about the importance of all the questions that he has raised. I shall consider the question how we may proceed to have a debate. I do not say that a debate is excluded by the inquiry, but I should certainly have to look at the matter again to see what are the possibilities. However, I agree with my hon. Friend about the momentous significance of the subject.
Perhaps I may revert to the communication that the Lord President made a few moments ago. Will he be a little more explicit to the House which is very anxious to know the answers, about which system of elections will be proposed by the Bill—one, or two, or an alternative suggestion? Will there be opportunity before the Summer Recess, if the House gives the Bill a Second Reading, for us to decide the question of the system?[column 577]
I must ask the hon. Gentleman and the House to await the presentation of the Bill. That is the normal way to deal with it. But all these are important questions. That is what we have been carefully considering. When the hon. Gentleman sees the Bill, his curiosity will be allayed.
May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the fact that a Sittings motion to extend the sittings of the Standing Committee on the Abortion (Amendment) Bill is to be proposed, to extend the sittings to two mornings and two open-ended afternoons a week? Is it usual with a Private Member's Bill to extend the Committee sittings in this way, and is there anything that my right hon. Friend can do about it to help us?
According to the rules of the House, that is a matter for the Standing Committee itself, and we have to leave these matters to be dealt with in that fashion. What we are doing in connection with that Bill is to abide absolutely by the normal rules of the House in all its procedures, and I think that that is the right course.
Concerning the business for next week, and one or two weeks after that, could we have an assurance from the Leader of the House that before we rise for the Summer Recess the Government will have put through the legislation implementing the undertaking given by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland about increasing the penalties for certain crimes committed there?
I shall certainly see what is the exact timetable on those matters. I shall give the hon. Gentleman an answer as soon as I can. I cannot tell him the exact state of affairs at present.
Mr. Greville Janner
Does my right hon. Friend expect that there will be time to debate the progress of the Helsinki talks at present proceeding in Belgrade? Is it the Government's intention to make a statement concerning the unhappy arrest and deportation of the three British ladies in Belgrade, who had gone there to protest at the persecution of Jews within the Soviet Union?
I shall certainly see what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secre[column 578]tary proposes about a statement. I think that we should wait a bit further for the conference to proceed before deciding whether we have a debate in the House on the matter.
Will the Lord President soon allow the House to break its long silence on the subject of immigration? Is not this long silence unfair to the Government, for presumably the Lord President would wish to allow the Government to state their position in having doubled the rate of immigration from 32,000 a year in 1973 to 60,000 a year in 1976, and would not the Government wish proudly to proclaim the success of this policy of relaxing immigration control?
I shall not accept either the hon. Gentleman's figures or his statements without investigation. There was a debate on one aspect of immigration a week or so ago. There is to be another debate later in the week of the business that I have announced. If the hon. Gentleman wants a general debate on immigration, he can make representations to his own Front Bench on the matter. It is not a question of debates being entirely settled by the decision of the Government.
Will my right hon. Friend take all possible steps to brush off the attempts of those pro-Marketeers who are anxious to get into Europe, to represent Britain in Europe and to pick up the £30,000 a year, by hurrying along the direct elections Bill and getting it very clearly defined at this stage? Will he also, as an anti-Marketeer of some renown, tell us how happy he feels about being gagged on what is supposedly a free vote?
Free voting and free speaking are not necessarily the same thing. My hon. Friend must understand that, too. We are carrying out what we promised and presenting a Bill on the matter. That is what we said we would do, and that is being done. That is what the House will be able to see for itself, when it is presented, and then my hon. Friend, along with others, will be able to debate it and to decide its outcome.
In view of the publication yesterday of the report of the Select Committee on Violence in the Family, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange an early debate so that many of the important recommendations in the report may be [column 579]implemented? Secondly, will he now reconsider his earlier rejection of the re-establishment of a Select Committee on Scottish affairs, so that we can discuss the very critical situation existing in Scottish schools and the fact that only one in 100 teaching graduates is receiving a post this year?
I shall certainly discuss the hon. Lady's second question with the Secretary of State for Scotland and see what he wishes to propose about such a debate. On the first matter, if the hon. Lady was referring to the First Report from the Select Committee on Violence in the Family, as I think she was, the way to proceed would be, first, for the Government to make some statement upon it, and then to see whether the House would wish a debate. However, I fully understand the interest on the part of hon. Members in all parts of the House.
PLR, Sir—possibility legislative resolution?
No hope for this Session. Look out for next one.
Would it be possible for the Lord President to tell the House exactly what the state of the Government's business over the direct elections will be, partly in view of the discussion with the Leader of the Liberal Party about his attitude to it, but mainly now that he has lost a seat due to the resignation of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden)?
I do not know what that has got to do with anything. It is certainly nothing to do with the business here. There will be time for the House to discuss all these matters when the Bill is presented.
Mr. John Mendelson
In view of the announcement that the Home Secretary is conducting an inquiry into recent events outside a London factory, will my right hon. Friend ask the Home Secretary whether he can find a means of indicating in an interim way his early conclusions on this matter to the House?
I understand the great concern in the House about the matters raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt) over many months, concern which has been [column 580]expressed in the House this week. I shall have discussions with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary along the lines suggested by my hon. Friend to see what can be proposed.
Mr. Nicholas Winterton
The Prime Minister indicated that the situation in Southern Africa was changing very quickly. Will the Lord President find time at an early date for a debate on Southern Africa so that we may discuss matters that go wider than the Commonwealth—perhaps the grave difficulties of Angola and Mozambique—and so that the Government can tell the House upon which black African State they would like to model a new Government for Rhodesia?
There was a debate on many of these matters before the Commonwealth conference. If the Opposition wanted to have a debate on the Commonwealth situation and on the communiqué, there would be time in their own time, or we could see what other opportunities there are. I recognise the importance of all these subjects. It may be that the Opposition will wish to have a general debate on the matter.
Several Hon. Members
I propose to call the four hon. Members who are on their feet—but not all at the same time.
Mr. Brocklebank -Fowler
Has the Lord President noticed that Early-Day Motion No. 222 remains on the Order Paper and now has the support of 380 Members from all parts of the House, who represent over two-thirds of the Back-Bench membership of the House?
[That this House, dissatisfied with the infrequency and nature of debates on Foreign Affairs, urges the Government to set up a Standing Foreign Affairs Select Committee whose Reports should be debated in the House within 30 days of publication.]
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in a recent debate on the subject a Government spokesman indicated the desirability of a further debate? Will he now tell the House when would be a convenient occasion for a three-hour debate in Government time?
I cannot promise a debate on the matter in Government time, because we have many matters that must [column 581]be debated and the general question is being considered by the Procedure Committee, which will no doubt give due weight to the motion to which the hon. Gentleman has constantly called attention. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to have a debate in the House before then, he must use one of the many opportunities available to Back Benchers.
As the Prime Minister made a statement upstairs to the Parliamentary Labour Party explaining the circumstances in which Ministers would be able to vote against the forthcoming Bill on European Parliament elections but not speak against it, may we expect a statement to the House by the Prime Minister about this matter next week? Secondly, as it was a matter that incurred the Prime Minister's displeasure when the hon. Members for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) and Coventry, South-West (Mrs. Wise) voted against the Government in the Committee upstairs on Tuesday, why will it be acceptable if Ministers vote against the Government during the proceedings on the Bill concerning the Common Market?
The hon. Gentleman should know enough about the way in which the affairs of the House are conducted to know that it is not at all an unknown practice for party leaders and other Members to have private meetings of parties in the House sometimes. Occasionally, notice is given in the public prints, but that there should be a report to the House on what may have occurred on those occasions would be a novelty. I am amazed that some Conservative Members do not seem to know anything about the constitution of the country.
As Ministers are apparently to be free to vote against the direct elections Bill, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that Back Benchers will continue to be free to vote against the Government on the Finance Bill?
The hon. Gentleman is trying, somewhat more ingeniously than the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), [column 582]to introduce a topic upon which I said we would not have a report here. On the question of the Finance Bill, which is a different matter, what will happen is that according to the normal procedures of the House the Bill will be reported to the House and all those matters will be open for debate then. The hon. Gentleman is fully aware of that procedure.
In what look like the last six weeks of this wretched Government before the next election, may we have time for a debate on the likely effects of the one policy that the Scottish National Party is interested in—namely, making Scotland a foreign, alien State from the rest of what is presently Great Britain?
The hon. and learned Gentleman cannot have followed recent events very carefully. What we have done is to indicate that up until roughly some stage in July, in the middle of the summer, we shall continue with our present business. We shall then go away for the recess, although I cannot announce the exact date. We shall return after the recess and have the Queen's Speech. We shall have the introduction of the new devolution Bill and then we shall have the discussions to which the hon. and learned Gentleman has referred. We shall then go ahead to introduce the further measures, some of which the Government have indicated and others of which will be indicated in the Queen's Speech. In two or three years' time the hon. and learned Gentleman may be preparing and writing his election address, but I would not advise him to do it before then.