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 27th June—Remaining stages of the Post Office Bill.
Motions on the Social Security Benefits Up-Rating, the Child Benefit, and Supplementary Benefits Orders.
Remaining stages of the Local Authorities (Restoration of Works Powers) Bill.
Motion on the Financial Assistance for Industry (Increase of Limit) Order.
Tuesday 28th June—There will be a debate on energy, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.
Wednesday 29th June—Supply [25th Allotted Day]: until 7 o'clock, there will be a debate on the recruiting methods and techniques of SLADE, on a motion for the Adjournment. [column 1746]
At 7 o'clock, the Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed Private Business for consideration.
Motion on the Incumbents (Vacation of Benefices) Measure.
Thursday 30th June—Proceedings on the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) (Amendment) Bill.
Motions on Northern Ireland Orders on Various Emergency Provisions (Continuance), the 1974 Act (Interim Period Extension), Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) and Fatal Accidents.
Friday 1st July—Motions on the Appropriation (No. 2) (Northern Ireland) Order and on the Criminal Injuries (Compensation) (Northern Ireland) Order.
Monday 4th July—Supply [26th Allotted Day]: the subject for debate will be decided by the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru.
On Thursday's business, is Michael Footthe Leader of the House aware that we are grateful to him for responding to representations from this side of the House to include increased penalties for acts of terrorism in the Bill which is the first Order of the Day, so that they will take effect this summer?
Secondly, we were promised the direct elections Bill on Thursday or Friday. Will the Lord President confirm that it will be introduced tomorrow, because we had thought that the debate would be coming on more quickly than now appears to be the case? Will the right hon. Gentleman give some indication of when it will be?
No doubt the first matter will be a subject for comment during the debate on Thursday and Friday of next week.
The direct elections Bill will be published and presented to the House tomorrow. I cannot give the right hon. Lady an exact date for the Second Reading debate, but I presume that I shall be able to make an announcement on that next week.
Mr. John Mendelson
Would the Lord President undertake to discuss with the Secretary of State for Employment whether the Secretary early next week on his attempt to help achieve a settlement in [column 1747]the Grunwick dispute, especially in view of the fact that, so far, the House has discussed only the legal implications of a situation which is essentially industrial, and because Parliament and the country could then see how trade union rights are being threatened? That would also enable legislation that the House has passed and discussed in detail—during which discussions the present situation was foreseen—to be properly considered by the nation as a whole.
I shall discuss the matter that my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) has raised with the Secretary of State for Employment and we shall consider whether a statement from him next week could help.
In view of the approach of the long recess, does the Leader of the House expect to be able to announce next week the establishment of a conference under your presidency, Mr. Speaker, so that it can begin its work before the recess?
I cannot promise a statement next week, but I shall certainly see how we can expedite matters to try to get a statement as soon as possible.
Mr. Ronald Atkins
Will the White Paper on transport be published soon and, if so, will the Leader of the House allow adequate time for us to debate it soon after its publication?
I expect that the White Paper will be published next week and we shall then give consideration to the time that the House may wish for debate. However, let us first publish the White Paper.
Is the Leader of the House aware that, notwithstanding the rigours of an all-night sitting and our appearances, we are all a day younger than we should be, and what will he do about it?
I am not sure how I can give back to the House its lost day. However, despite the fact that we would have been happy to get through business in the time previously allocated, the House seemed to do pretty well.
Has the attention of the Leader of the House been drawn to [column 1748]Early-Day Motions Nos. 377, 378 and 379, which relate to the appalling case which has outraged almost the entire nation, of a young woman who was brutally assaulted and subjected to attempted rape? Her assailant, a soldier, was sentenced by the judge to three years' imprisonment. The appeal judges, on a false premise, reduced that to six months' suspended sentence and told the assailant to be a good boy. One of the judges recommended that perhaps the girl should have submitted to being raped. Is the Leader of the House aware that the judges went on to say that their decision might arouse public outrage and that they had made the decision in order to ensure that there was public outrage. Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware that many people are asking why Parliament cannot discuss the matter? Would my right hon. Friend be prepared to give that consideration?
[That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that she will be pleased to remove the Right Honourable Sir Wentworth Roskill from the office which he holds as Justice of the High Court.]
[That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that she will be pleased to remove the honourable Sir Gordon Slynn from the office which he holds as Justice of the High Court.]
[That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that she will be pleased to remove the honourable Sir Philip Wien from the office which he held as Justice of the High Court.]
I shall not comment on all the detailed statements that my hon. Friend has made. I know that there is considerable interest about this in the country, the House and the Government. There was a leading article in The Times two or three days ago on the subject and I hope that it will not be regarded as too intrusive of me to say that I agreed with it.
Can the Leader of the House give an assurance that there is no particular significance in allowing the Scottish National Party 4th July for its debate?
It was not my choice. I believe that it was chosen by the Opposition.[column 1749]
Is the Leader of the House aware that, although—in my right hon. Friend's terminology—the House did “rather well” , there is a growing opinion on both sides of the House and outside that this is a most incompetent way to scrutinise legislation, although it is no fault of the existing establishment? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that there is a substantial demand for the system to be radically changed and that the sooner we get down to doing it the better?
The whole question of any radical change in our procedures, to achieve the effects indicated by my hon. Friend, is being discussed by the Procedure Committee and we shall see what that Committee recommends. I shall not prejudge that. However, I have always held the view—and I have seen no reason for changing it—that the possibility of longer sittings, which do happen from time to time, is necessary in order to ensure that the Opposition enjoy their rights as well as the Government.
Will the Leader of the House consider the possibility of holding a foreign affairs debate before the House rises for the recess, particularly a debate on the subject of Cyprus, which, now that there is a new Government in Turkey, is a matter worthy of consideration by the House?
Of course the subject to which the hon. and learned Gentleman has referred would be worthy of consideration and I understand his reason for suggesting a debate. However, I cannot promise a debate in Government time before the recess. But there are other opportunities for debate either on subjects chosen by the Opposition or by other means.
Is the Leader of the House aware that, although his observations on The Times editorial on the rape case are interesting, they do not go far enough, because we now want a debate on sentencing policy for rape? The law and the judiciary are being brought into disrepute by the exercise of sex discrimination and by the prejudices of leading judges. Shall we have an opportunity to express our view on sentencing policy for rape?
As I said in my previous reply, I understand the strong feelings on the subject that exist in many parts of [column 1750]the House and the country. I cannot exclude the possibility of a debate on the subject at some stage, but the article in The Times indicated some of the concern that prevails in the country about these decisions. The questions that have been put in the House today have also helped to indicate feelings here.
In view of the statement made by the Attorney-General today, will the Lord President find time for the House to debate the criteria upon which one may avoid prosecution for a criminal offence in England and Wales by organising sufficient hysterical public or political reaction? I have a Press Association photograph of the serious assault that was committed upon a police officer today, and I wonder whether the person who committed that assault may be able to escape prosecution by organising sufficient threat of industrial action.
Not merely do I repudiate every inference that the hon. and learned Gentleman has drawn from my right hon. and learned Friends remarks, but I do not believe that there is any justification for the implication in what he has just said. I am sure that, on consideration, the hon. and learned Gentleman will be eager to withdraw his remarks.
Mr. Greville Janner
In view of the overriding importance of preserving the rule of law and of the abysmal ignorance of hon. Members opposite of the effects of indiscriminate prosecution, as evidenced, in particular, by the question of the hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn), is it not time that we had a debate on the rule of law so that the education of hon. Members opposite could at least begin?
That is a more powerful case for such a debate than any I have heard from hon. Members opposite.
Mr. Eldon Griffiths
May I reinforce the plea of the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) that there should be a statement by the Home Secretary on the threat to public order outside the Grunwick factory? Will the Leader of the House approach you, Mr. Speaker, so that the House may extricate itself from the difficulty of, on the one hand, your having to protect the rights of [column 1751]individuals at law and, on the other, of the House having the duty to consider a major matter of public importance?
The hon. Gentleman has completely misinterpreted what my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) said. My hon. Friend went out of his way to underline that he was asking for a statement by the Secretary of State for Employment on the industrial aspects of the case so that we may move towards a settlement.
May I ask my right hon. Friend to have another look at my Early-Day Motions Nos. 377, 378 and 379 about the three High Court judges? They have the support of a large number of hon. Members and they are unusual motions because this is the only way in which High Court judges can be brought to book by Parliament. Can time be found between now and the Summer Recess for a short debate on all the ramifications of this case, because public opinion is disgusted by the fact that a girl was brutally and savagely assaulted and her assailant received only a suspended six-month prison sentence? Judges cannot be allowed to get away with that sort of conduct.
I have nothing to add to what I said previously on this subject, though I shall take into account the representations of my hon. Friend, who has very great experience in these matters.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a rumour that, in an endeavour to avoid a carry-over Session, we shall be asked to sit for at least one extra week in July? Is he aware that the many hundreds of hon. Members, staff and police with school-age children will deeply resent such a manoeuvre and will he try to put into practice his previous commitment to help us to see our children at least for some part of the year?
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's point and I hope that the arrangements that will be made will satisfy him.
Several Hon. Members
Order. I shall call the five hon. Members who have been seek[column 1752]ing to catch my eye since the Lord President finished his statement.
Mr. James Lamond
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Hansard for 18th May has not yet been published? Will he inquire why this is?
This may be a consequence of the difficulties that we had a short while ago, but in view of my hon. Friend's question I shall certainly make inquiries about the production of this issue.
If the Secretary of State for Employment is to make the statement requested by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) on trade union rights, will the Leader of the House make sure that it places equal, if not greater, emphasis on individuals' rights that are at stake here, particularly the individual's right to work whether or not he wishes to join a trade union?
On the hon. Gentleman's second point, we are awaiting a statement from the Leader of the Opposition and I am sure that we are all eager to see it. I did not say to my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone that there would necessarily be a statement by the Secretary of State for Employment next week, but only that we would consult to see whether such a statement would be helpful. The Secretary of State is seeking to get a settlement of the dispute so that many of these other difficulties can also be overcome.
In the statement that the Secretary of State for Employment is to make on the important issues stemming from the Grunwick dispute, will he particularly take into account the new development of some employers seeking, during disputes, to transport workers through picket lines? Will he consider the proposal of The Guardian and others that one authorised picket should be allowed to board such vehicles to attempt peacefully to persuade workers not to cross picket lines? This would help to meet the rights of workers and would remove the possibility of violence in disputes.
I did not say that the Secretary of State was necessarily going to make a statement next week. I said that I would convey to him the representations of my hon. Friend the Member for [column 1753]Penistone and others that he should make a statement. If he did so, it would be a statement on the industrial aspects of the situation and no doubt it would be designed to assist in getting a settlement, if that were open to him.
On the second matter of the general law about picketing, the House will recall that we had many discussions on this matter during the passage of the Employment Protection Act and that we all had to admit, including myself as the Minister responsible for introducing that legislation, that we had not yet solved the problem of how all rights are to be properly protected in such circumstances. We therefore carried on with the law as it stood previously and made no effective alteration. The consideration of all these questions involves many wider aspects, and I do not think that we could have a statement on these matters next week.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the past 10 days there have been six meetings of the Councils of EEC Ministers, but that we have had only one statement? The Government are slipping back into their bad old ways. May we have statements next week on the major meetings that have already taken place?
I am, as ever, grateful for the hon. Gentleman's vigilance. I shall see which Ministers have, in the hon. Gentleman's words, slipped back, and what the reasons were. I am sure that there must be good reasons if there has been any departure from the highest standards that we were seeking to introduce. I hope that I shall be able to go some way towards satisfying the hon. Gentleman by remedying the situation.
Mr. Michael Latham
In relation to the direct elections Bill, and the novel idea of including two alternative voting systems in the measure, will Ministers be outlining their preferences on Second Reading and using their best endeavours to carry them into law?
I am sure that the House will await with interest the publication of the Bill tomorrow. Many hon. Members have shown an interest in it. When hon. Members read the Bill, they will see that we have solved some of the difficulties outlined in our two-day debate on direct elections. For example, the [column 1754]right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) indicated how difficult it was to ensure that a proper choice could be put to the House. The form of legislation that the Government have devised overcomes this difficulty. I hope that we shall be congratulated by the hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Latham) on that account.