BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Business Statement, Mr. Foot.
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 4th July—Supply (26th Allotted Day): there will be a debate on a motion by the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru on the salary of the Prime Minister.
Remaining stages of the Passenger Vehicles (Experimental Areas) Bill [Lords.]
Tuesday 5th July—Remaining stages of the Merchant Shipping (Safety Convention) Bill [Lords] and the Torts (Interference with Goods) Bill [Lords].
Consideration of any Lords amendments which may be received to the Redundancy Rebates Bill.
Motion on the Army, Air Force and Naval Discipline (Continuation) Order.
Wednesday 6th July and Thursday 7th July—Second Reading of the European Assembly Elections Bill.
At the end on Thursday, motions on Ministers' and Members' pay and secretarial allowance.
Friday 8th July—Remaining stages of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Bill.
Monday 11th July—Private Members' motions until 7 o'clock.
It is expected that the Chairman of Ways and Means will name opposed Private Business for consideration at 7 o'clock.
What are Michael Footthe Lord President's intentions about the direct elections Bill, which is to have its Second Reading next week? As it seems unlikely that the Bill will reach the statute book this Session—indeed, it is not expected or intended to do so—is he expecting to give an opportunity for a decision to be made on the method of election before the House rises for the summer? It will be necessary to do so in order that when the Bill comes back, if the Government are still in power in [column 554]the autumn, it will be better constructed than it is at present.
We all know that the Government will be here when we come back in the autumn. There is no doubt about that. It would be much more in accordance with normal practice if we had the Second Reading debate as we have announced. When the House has made a decision, we can see how to proceed to the next stage.
Will my right hon. Friend arrange for a debate soon on the sugar industry, because our membership of the EEC means that 2,000 port refinery jobs will be threatened in the near future?
I cannot promise an immediate debate, but I am sure that my hon. Friend will seek means of raising this subject in the House.
Have this Government of planners a plan for when the House will go into recess for the summer?
We do not yet have a date. As soon as we have fixed it, we shall let the House know—and I hope that we shall have the enthusiastic support of the hon. Gentleman on that subject, if on nothing else.
Mr. George Cunningham
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Standing Committee on the Housing (Homeless Persons) Bill has not yet reached decisions on a number of key issues in relation to the Bill and that these will have to be gone over very carefully on Friday next week? Would he consider the unusual, but not unprecedented, step of recommitting the Bill to a Committee of the whole House so that we are not limited by Report stage procedures but can consider it under Committee Stage procedures and take the remaining stages on the same day?
I am doubtful whether that would be the best procedure. I should have thought that the normal Report stage procedure was the best way of proceeding. Since my hon. Friend has raised the point, I shall look into it, but I can give him no encouragement that we shall think that this is the right way to proceed. I hope that we can complete the Bill next Friday. I know that there are important matters to be discussed but I think that they can all be discussed on Report.[column 555]
Sir Frederic Bennett
Has the attention of the Leader of the House been drawn to the fact that there is another potentially very unpleasant industrial dispute in the South-West at Channing Wood Prison with pickets protesting outside the prison regarding a Home Office building contract? I do not want to press the matter or to make things more difficult today, but would the right hon. Gentleman convey to the appropriate Home Office Minister that we shall expect a statement next week if this incident is not speedily resolved?
I understand that the hon. Gentleman has written to my right hon. Friend, who is carefully considering the representations that have been made. Whether there should be a statement next week is another question, but I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be in touch with the hon. Gentleman.
Has my right hon. Friend seen Early-Day Motion No. 383 concerning the effect of a price increase in school meals? Will he ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science or the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make an early statement, preferably saying that the proposal is to be abandoned?
[That this House urges her Majesty's Government to withdraw its proposals to increase the price of school meals by 10p per meal per day planned to take effect in September 1977, believing that the increases proposed will undermine the value of the child benefit scheme, will cause hardship for the families of working people at a time of high inflation, will undermine the school meals service and cause further job losses, and will damage the nutritional intake of children.]
I have seen the motion and I note that it has widespread support on this side of the House. I am sure that this will be taken into account by the Ministers concerned, but I cannot say that there will be a statement on the subject next week.
As the Report stage of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Bill will follow quickly on the Committee stage, can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that all the documents related to the Bill in Committee, including the copies of Hansard and, particularly, the Bill as [column 556]amended, will be available in good time for amendments to be put down on Report?
We shall do everything possible to ensure that all the documents are available to the House. I hope that there will not be any hold-up in this respect. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be eager to assist the House in getting the Bill through so that we do not have it held up. I certainly take note of the important point that he has raised.
Mrs. Joyce Butler
Has the Lord President's attention been drawn to the recent Second Report of the Select Committee on “Violence in the family” which recommends that there should be an early debate on the problems of battered wives? In view of the considerable public as well as parliamentary concern about the issues involved, can my right hon. Friend find time for a debate fairly soon?
If we are to announce the date for which I was asked earlier, we shall not have a great deal of time for all the matters that the House wishes to debate. This subject has been pressed by others of my hon. Friends. I shall look at it afresh to see whether time is available, but I cannot make any promises.
When the Leader of the House has become fully aware of the glaring defects in the direct elections Bill—as he will at least by next Thursday—will he consider withdrawing the Bill rather than wasting the time of the House in going through the Committee and Report stages of a Bill that is beyond power to be remedied?
I would have thought that what the hon. Member has said would be in order on the Second Reading of the Bill. I await with interest the speech that he may make on that occasion.
In view of the problems facing the footwear industry, will my right hon. Friend arrange for a debate on footwear as soon as possible?
Once again, I cannot promise a debate. I know that many of my hon. Friends are much concerned with the situation. They have raised it with me and with the Secretary of State for Trade. I shall have further conversations with my right hon. Friend the Secretary [column 557]of State to see what can be done to meet the representations that have been made.
Sir David Renton
The Government have not so far tabled a motion for the House to consider after the EEC elections Bill gets its Second Reading next Thursday. Does that mean that the Government intend that the Committee be taken on the Floor of the House?
I suppose that the Committee stage of a Bill of this constitutional character would have to be taken on the Floor of the House.
On the question of Greater London affairs, will my right hon. Friend reconsider his earlier answer about having debates in other places in the House? In view of the references made by people such as the present Leader of the GLC—which would do credit to any Reichstag—about changes for the people of London, and since these issues are so serious, will my right hon. Friend consider a debate on the affairs of London on the Floor of the House? When considering the matter, will he bear in mind the serious, almost Fascist, statements that have been made by the present Leader of the GLC?
I know that there are serious issues to be raised that affect London. As I have indicated before, we shall not have time, before the House goes into the Summer Recess, to debate all the serious issues. I shall take all representations into account, but hon. Members must recognise that all their claims cannot be met.
Last Monday the White Paper on transport was published. This is one of the most extensive reviews of transport for some time. Is the Leader of the House aware that many hon. Members want the opportunity to discuss this, bearing in mind that transport, although it has done better this year, has not had the attention it deserves in recent years?
I appreciate the hon. Member's acceptance that the House has done better recently in debating transport. The Government provided time for some of those discussions. Of course, there will have to be a debate on the White Paper, but I cannot promise that it will be before the recess.