BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Will Michael Footthe Leader of the House be kind enough to state the business for next week?
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 11th July—Consideration of Private Members' motions until 7 o'clock. Afterwards, the Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed Private Business for consideration. Motion on EEC Documents R/89/75, R/1643/75, R/2026/76, R/2027/76 and R/2203/76 on pesticides, plant protection and packaging and labelling.
Tuesday 12th July—Supply [27th Allotted Day]: there will be a debate on the prevention of crime.
Remaining stages of the Local Authorities Works (Scotland) Bill.
Second Reading of the Rent Bill [Lords] and of the Protection from Eviction Bill [Lords], which are consolidation measures.
Wednesday 13th July—Remaining stages of the Criminal Law Bill [Lords].
Thursday 14th July—Progress on the Report stage of the Finance Bill.
Friday 15th July—Consideration of Private Members' Bills.
Monday 18th July—Supply [28th Allotted Day]: subject for debate to be announced.
The Lord President will recollect that Denis Healeythe Chancellor announced in Question Time that there is likely to be a White Paper of considerable importance published early next week. Is it his intention to provide us with a day for debating economic matters [column 1426]before the House rises for the Summer Recess? It would seem that the Report stage of the Finance Bill is not an appropriate vehicle for a major debate.
I shall look at the right hon. Lady's suggestion. However, we thought that it would be perfectly possible and proper to discuss these matters in the Finance Bill debates. They will be strictly relevant to the matters under discussion in the Finance Bill.
Will the Leader of the House reconsider that answer? Clearly there are a number of questions about public expenditure that have to be considered. Surely it would be better to have a full day's economic debate than to talk on specific amendments to the Finance Bill.
I shall look at the right hon. Lady's representations. If she is asking for the provision of an extra day, I must point out that that would create some difficulties. We thought that the matters comprised in the White Paper could be discussed adequately on the Report stage of the Finance Bill. However, I shall look at her representations.
In view of the rapid approach of the Summer Adjournment, would the Leader of the House ensure that a statement is made next week about the conference to be presided over by yourself, Mr. Speaker? Perhaps, subject to your wishes, that conference might begin work, as intended, before the Summer Recess.
I fully accept that. Without being tied to an actual date for a pronouncement, I can say that a statement should be made to the House. Progress is being made on the composition of the committee and I hope that an announcement will be made very soon.
The Prime Minister promised a statement to the House following talks between the TUC and the Government. Will he promise us adequate time for a debate following that statement and before the recess?
That was covered by the reply I gave earlier to the Leader of the Opposition. There will be three days' debates on the Report stage of the Finance Bill, and those debates will cover [column 1427]a very wide range of subjects. I promised to look at the representations of the Leader of the Opposition without any commitment to an extra day. All the subjects my right hon. Friend has raised could be raised on the Report stage of the Finance Bill.
Mr. Donald Stewart
Could the Leader of the House tell us whether there are any prospects for a debate on the recent White Paper on transport before the Summer Recess?
I cannot promise a debate before the recess. However, I know the desire of many hon. Members for a further general debate on this matter.
In view of the rapid deterioration of employment prospects for textile workers in the North-West mainly because of imports and the withdrawal of the temporary employment subsidy from firms which have exhausted their entitlement to it, would my right hon. Friend promise us a debate on this subject before the end of the Session?
If we reach the second subject for debate on Private Members' motions on Monday, this topic would be relevant. Also there are other possibilities for raising the matter, such as the debate on the motion for the Summer Adjournment. I am afraid that I cannot promise a full debate on this matter.
Sir J. Eden
Can the Leader of the House assure us that there will be a debate on the EEC budget before the Ministerial Council of 20th July, bearing in mind that the report of the Scrutiny Committee will be available later next week?
I believe that we shall be able to make sure that a debate takes place before the debates in Brussels. I would like to check the dates, however, before making a final commitment.
Mr. Gwynfor Evans
In view of the fact that it is almost two years since the Government decided that, without prejudice to what happens in England, in Wales the fourth television channel would be a national channel, giving priority to the Welsh language, and in view of the fact that English television has done enormous damage to the Welsh language, particularly among young children in [column 1428]Wales, could we have an early statement on the implementation of this decision?
I cannot promise an early statement. The House is committed to a debate on Welsh affairs at some time and it would be perfectly proper to raise that matter then.
Could the Leader of the House say whether the CPRS Report on the Foreign Service will be presented before the recess? If so, is there a chance of a debate on it?
The report will be presented before the recess but I cannot guarantee a debate in the time before we rise.
Are we to understand that we are to have a White Paper on economic affairs but that the matters contained in it are to be debated on a Bill? Is this not a somewhat unusual practice? Also, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that details of the Bermuda Agreement on air traffic services between Britain and America have been widely published in the Press in the United States? Is it not time that we had a debate in this House, even in advance of the Government's own White Paper?
On the Bermuda Agreement, whatever may be published in the American or British Press, I cannot give a guarantee of a debate before the Summer Recess. However, I am sure that the hon. Member can use his ingenuity to raise the subject in the ways that are available to hon. Members. On his other point, it is perfectly normal procedure for a White Paper to be published and then taken into account in debates that are proceeding at the time on a Bill. Many matters in the White Paper will be strictly relevant to debates on the Report stage of the Finance Bill. Therefore, I believe that the House is perfectly able to comprehend a debate on the White Paper during debates on the Report stage.
Reverting to the textile industry, my right hon. Friend is well aware of the considerable problems in this respect and the number of jobs that are in jeopardy as a result of overseas textile imports. There have been important talks in Geneva on the Multi-Fibre Arrangement, so could he arrange for the Secretary of State for Trade to make a [column 1429]statement? It would be most appropriate if that statement could be made on Monday in order to coincide with the motion tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Noble).
[That this House notes the growing volume of imports of textiles, footwear, electronic components and other products; expresses concern at the effect this increasing penetration is having on employment and investment in these industries; welcomes the negotiating stance of Her Majesty's Government on the Multi-Fibre Agreement and other measures to restrain excessive imports without which the situation would have further deteriorated; calls on Her Majesty's Government to introduce immediately additional selective import controls to defend these sensitive industries; further requests Her Majesty's Government to seek bilateral trading arrangements with overseas producers of sensitive products with a view to reducing the level of import penetration; and urges Her Majesty's Government to enter into negotiations with other signatories of GATT with a view to introducing into that Treaty a social clause which will ensure that employees in those developing countries with which Great Britain trades have the legal right to join free trade unions, have access to free collective bargaining and a developing social security system.]
I cannot promise a statement by the Secretary of State on Monday. I shall take account of what has been said and I shall consult him on the possibility of getting a general statement on the subject.
Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg
Will the Leader of the House look again at the question of the White Paper? The Chancellor has indicated that the White Paper cannot be issued until after the meeting with the TUC. As the first business on Thursday is the Finance Bill, will he give an assurance that the House will have at least 24 hours to read the White Paper and that we shall not find that it has been leaked to the Press at 2.30 p.m. and that the House will be expected to consider it an hour later?
That would not be satisfactory for the House. We propose that the White Paper should be published to enable the House to take account of [column 1430]its considerations before the conclusion of the debates on the Report stage of the Finance Bill.
Mr. Greville Janner
Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that there will be a statement before the recess on the negotiations in Belgrade? Also could he indicate when the recess is likely to be?
I know that there is some curiosity about the second point. I do not want to announce a date until we are certain of it. I understand that there is a desire of hon. Members that the House should reach the end of its discussions some time before the end of the month.
I fully accept what my hon. and learned Friend says about Belgrade, but I am sure that he and other hon. Members will take account of the fact that if I agreed to every proposition for a debate and every call for a statement, instead of rising about the end of the month we would be still sitting until well into November. I do not think that that would be satisfactory.
When does the Leader of the House intend to introduce the European Assemblies Elections (No. 2) Bill? It is quite clear that the No. 1 Bill will not reach the statute book this Session.
I bow to the hon. Member's great knowledge of parliamentary procedure. I agree that it is conceivable that the No. 1 Bill will not reach the statute book this Session. However, I think that we had better see how we get on with the No. 1 Bill before we consider introducing No. 2.
Mr. Cledwyn Hughes
My right hon. Friend referred to the possibility of a debate on Welsh affairs, which will be welcomed. However, will he give an assurance that the debate will not be held on the last day before the House rises for the Summer Recess?
That is another of the problems that arise when many hon. Members—I do not refer specifically to my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes)—press urgently for important debates and then suggest that they should not take place on the last day before the House adjourns for [column 1431]the recess. That truncates the possibility of further debates. However, I shall bear in mind my right hon. Friend's helpful remarks.
Is it not completely unsatisfactory that the occasion when the House is to debate the new financial White Paper should be wrapped up in the Report stage of the Finance Bill? Is it not clear that this is a Government device for avoiding a vote? The Government know that votes on Report will relate to different matters. Is it not clear that now that the Government and the Liberal Party are totally at variance on economic and incomes policies, we should have separate votes to see where we all stand?
The hon. Gentleman is putting forward an extraordinary proposition if he is suggesting that a vote on Report is a device to avoid a vote. Many votes take place on Report. There seems to be nothing wrong with the proposition that general subjects covered by a White Paper should coincide with many of the topics which inevitably arise on Report. We propose to hold the debates in the way we have suggested. However, I have suggested that we shall examine the representations made by the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition. We shall also examine the timetable, because that aspect also has to be considered.
Will my right hon. Friend tell the Opposition that it is a discourtesy to the House and an inconvenience to Back-Benchers that the Opposition have not yet announced a subject for discussion on their Supply Day? Will he ask them to make up their minds and let us know what will be the subject on Monday week?
To be fair to the Opposition, I must point out that other Oppositions in the past have waited until a late stage before announcing a subject for debate. Therefore, there is no question of our seeking to avoid a vote, but after the fiasco of last Monday I can understand the Opposition wanting to think very carefully about the next one.
Mr. Tim Renton
The Lord President will doubtless be aware that strong views were expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House in yesterday's debate [column 1432]that direct elections should be on a first-past-the-post basis and that that should be regarded as a genuine option within the framework of the fact that such elections should be held in May-June of next year. Indeed, assurances were given by the Home Secretary that that would be the case. Therefore, in the circumstances, if the Bill receives a Second Reading tonight, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for the method of election to the European Parliament to be debated before the House rises for the Summer Recess, so that if the House decides that the elections should be held on a first-past-the-post basis, the Boundary Commissioners can get on with their work?
All those are topics to be raised in the debate that is now proceeding. I shall not anticipate the vote that is to take place tonight.
Several Hon. Members
Order. I propose to call a total of six hon. Members, three from each side, because of the long list of speakers in the next debate.
Mr. Alan Lee Williams
Will my right hon. Friend say when the Hansard for 18th July on the subject of the Helsinki accords will be available in the Vote Office?
I apologise if that day's copy of Hansard is still held up because of printing difficulties. [An Hon. Member: “What about 18th July?” ] I am not so sure about what will happen on 18th July, but that is my knowledge of the present situation.
Mr. Alan Lee Williams
I am sorry. I meant 18th May.
I shall make inquiries to see whether matters can be speeded up.
Will the right hon. Gentleman say when we shall see a resurrected devolution Bill? Although he may be congratulating himself on manoeuvring the Liberals and Ulster Unionists into supporting that Bill, will he recognise that unless such legislation contains meaningful revenue-raising powers my party may no longer be able to support it?
I note that the hon. Gentleman's threats grow milder and milder each day.[column 1433]
Mr. Ioan Evans
When may we expect a statement on the future arrangements for broadcasting the proceedings of the House? Furthermore, is my right hon. Friend in a position to give the House the likely date when we shall rise for the Summer Recess?
I cannot give the answer about the date when the House will rise for the Summer Recess, although I have given some faint indication. I hope that we shall be able to complete proceedings by the end of the month. I hope that before that happens we shall have a debate on the broadcasting of our proceedings.
Will the right hon. Gentleman recognise that there are already a substantial number of amendments and new clauses to the Finance Bill and that one of the clauses concerns the proposed reduction of income tax which was conditional on a pay agreement? Now that the Leader of the House says that a White Paper is to be brought forward to the House which will describe the total destruction of the Government's economic policy, is it not essential, bearing in mind the fact that the rules of order pertaining to Report stages of Finance Bills are so narrowly drawn, that there should be a separate debate on the Government's economic policies following the publication of the White Paper?
The hon. Gentleman has illustrated the reason why we propose to deal with the matter in the way I have suggested. Obviously the White Paper will deal with many of the subjects which in any case would have been discussed on Report, and they will be strictly relevant to those discussions. It is for that precise reason that we propose to deal with the matter as I suggested.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I take it that on Report on the Finance Bill any reference to the White Paper will be wholly in order during that stage of the Bill?
I never cast my bread on the waters to that extent. The hon. Gentleman must give me a chance to tell him the answer later.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is an indictment of the state of disunity in the Cabinet that we [column 1434]are now debating the European Assembly Elections Bill, which has been so long delayed and yet the right hon. Gentleman admits that the Bill cannot be finished this Session?
I am sure that the debate now proceeding is proof of the fact that the House would have insisted that we should discuss at considerable length a matter of such constitutional importance. The hon. Gentleman's intervention proves the opposite of his claim.
Mr. Edward Lyons
Will my right hon. Friend consider a debate before the recess on the Government's policy towards Japanese investment in the United Kingdom, particularly bearing in mind the proposal by Hitachi to set up a television factory in England? If not, will he give an undertaking that no decision will be taken on that proposition until after the House reassembles after the recess?
There is still time for my hon. and learned Friend and others interested in that subject—and I fully appreciate their concern—to make representations to the Ministers concerned. Indeed, I am sure that my hon. and learned Friend is engaged in doing so at present. In the light of such representations, we shall consider whether a statement should be made, although I would point out that hon. Members can discuss such matters in the debates that normally take place towards the end of a parliamentary Session.
Several Hon. Members
I shall call one more hon. Member. Mr. Paul Dean.
Mr. Paul Dean
In view of the fact that it would be intolerable and an abuse of the procedures of this House for hon. Members to be expected on the Report stage of the Finance Bill also to debate a major White Paper which has not yet been published, will the right hon. Gentleman examine the amendments which many of us have tabled to that Bill, and does he not recognise that it will be exceedingly difficult in three days adequately to debate the new White Paper?
The hon. Gentleman has not yet seen the White Paper, nor have I. [column 1435]Indeed, the White Paper is not yet written, and I do not intend to prejudge the matter. Although the hon. Gentleman suggests that our proposal would be intolerable and an abuse of the proceedings of the House, I wish to point out that that language was not used by the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition. She made no such suggestion, but asked in a courteous manner whether we would reconsider the matter and provide another day. I replied, equally courteously, by saying that we would consider her representations, without making any commitment. I said that it would be possible to discuss references to the White Paper on Report precisely because the same types of topic are covered. I shall take account of the right hon. Lady's representations, but I repudiate any suggestion by the hon. Gentleman that there is an abuse of the procedures of the House.