Business of the House
Business Question, Mrs. Thatcher.
May I ask Michael Footthe Leader of the House 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 18th July—Supply [28th Allotted Day]: the second sessional Supply Day allocated to EEC affairs. [column 783]There will be motions on energy, the Community budget and the European Regional Development Fund. The relevant documents are listed in the Vote Office.
Following are the documents: Energy R/1284/77 Rational Use of Energy R/1292/77 Energy Conservation, Building Conservation, Insulation etc. R/1294/77 Energy Research Financial Support R/1325/77 Energy Investment R/1417/77 Energy Situation Community Budget R/1541/77 Preliminary Draft Budget of the EEC for 1978 R/1013/77 Maximum Rate of Increase of “Non-obligatory” expenditure relative to the 1978 Budget R/480/77 Report by the Audit Board on the accounts for the Financial Year 1975 R/848/77 Council decision giving a discharge to the Commission in respect of the implementation of the Budget and of the rectifying and supplementary Budgets of the EEC for the financial year 1975 R/851/77 Preliminary draft supplementary and amending Budget No. 1 for 1977 R/1226/77 Amendment of the first supplementary amending Budget for 1977 European Regional Development Fund R/1611/76 European Regional Development Fund R/1334/77 ERDF New Proposals R/1613/77 Second Annual Report on ERDF
Motion relating to the Police (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations.
Tuesday 19th July—Supply [29th Allotted Day]: the Question will be put on all outstanding Votes.
There will be a debate on the problems of large towns and cities.
Motions on the Northern Ireland Orders on Preferential Payments in Insolvency, on Legal Aid, Advice and Assistance, and on Criminal Damage (Compensation).
Motion on the amendments to the Hops Marketing Scheme 1932.
Wednesday 20th July—Debate on counter-inflation.
Consideration of Lords amendments to the Price Commission Bill and to the Water Charges Equalisation Bill. [column 784]
Thursday 21st July—Progress on the remaining stages of the Finance Bill.
Friday 22nd July—Report and Third Reading of the Patents Bill [Lords] and of the Administration of Justice Bill [Lords].
Second Reading of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill [Lords] and of the Employment Protection Bill [Lords], which are consolidation measures.
Remaining stages of the Protection from Eviction Bill [Lords] and of the Rent Bill [Lords,] which are consolidation measures.
Motion on the Iron and Steel (Borrowing Powers) Order.
Monday 25th July—Completion of the remaining stages of the Finance Bill.
The House will wish to know that, subject to progress of business, it is hoped that the House will rise for the Summer Adjournment on Friday 29th July.
May I put two points to the Leader of the House? What will be the motion for Wednesday's debate on counter-inflation? Will it be a motion to approve Denis Healeythe Chancellor's statement? As the statement will be made on the last Friday for private Members' business and as the cross-examination of the Chancellor may take some time, would the Leader of the House consider allowing “injury time” for private Members?
I agree that it would be only fair, as a statement is being made, to provide “injury time” equal to the amount of time taken by the statement and questions. On the right hon. Lady's other question, it would be as well to hear the statement and its reception before making a decision about Wednesday.
When might my right hon. Friend be able to provide time for a debate on the report of the Joint Committee on the sound broadcasting of the House?
If my hon. Friend is referring to our motions, I hope that we shall be able to take them during the week after next before the House rises. If he is referring to a more general debate, that will have to wait until a later date.[column 785]
In regard to the Northern Ireland orders on Tuesday and the importance of the Criminal Damage Compensation Order, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that a business motion is tabled to extend the time available and that, if possible, this order is taken before the other two?
I think that it is proposed that the order to which the right hon. Gentleman refers should be taken before the others, but I shall consider what he said and also see whether we can provide some extra time.
My right hon. Friend has not quite answered the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Ford) who asked when the report of the Joint Committee would be debated and not when some motion thought up by the Government would be debated. Can my right hon. Friend assure us that he is an honourable Gentleman and that he will not try to creep through the House on the last day of the Session with a change in what successive Select Committees have recommended?
I am not trying to creep through the House with anything or to use methods other than those that make it quite clear to all hon. Members what is proposed. We have indicated to the House on a number of occasions that we wish to proceed with the broadcasting of our procedures, but we have to put down motions that have to be carried in order to make that possible. There will be a full opportunity for my hon. Friend and anyone else to put his case before the decision is made.
Will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate as soon as possible, and certainly before the House rises, on today's report from the Select Committee on the conduct of hon. Members?
I have noted, as other hon. Members may have done, the report that has been issued today and I fully accept that one of the major considerations to be taken into account is how soon we can debate it. If there is a desire in the House, particularly among the hon. Members concerned, to have a debate before the recess, I think that we should try to arrange one.[column 786]
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett
Has my right hon. Friend seen Early-Day Motion No. 383 on the need to freeze the price of school meals? Could he arrange time either for the motion to be debated—since it has been signed by 150 hon. Members—or for the Secretary of State for Education and Science to make a statement?
[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 increase proposed will undermine the value of the child benefit scheme, will cause hardship for the families of work the value of the child benefit scheme, will undermine the school meals service and cause further job losses, and will damage the nutritional intake of children.]
The Government and I certainly appreciate the importance that many of my hon. Friends attach to this subject. The matter may figure, in a different form, in the discussions that take place next week.
May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to Early-Day Motion No. 301 concerning the reintroduction of Sunday postal collections? This motion has the support of 132 hon. Members of all parties. Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that time will be made available to discuss this important subject?
[That this House calls upon the Government to draw the attention of the Post Office to the grave dissatisfaction, inconvenience and annoyance caused by the withdrawal of Sunday postal collections; and, in view of the proposed increases in postal charges, to press the Post Office to reintroduce the Sunday collection forthwith.]
I cannot say that there will be a debate before the recess, but this matter could be raised on the Adjournment motion.
In view of the increasing public clamour to read my Adjournment debate on the trade practices of fine art auctioneers, when can we expect the long overdue copy of Hansard for 18th May?
The universal demand for this form of reading has been brought in [column 787]upon me, chiefly by my hon. Friend. I shall certainly see whether we can send him away happy for the recess, even if we cannot do the same for all other hon. Members.
May I warmly support my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maulding) in his request for the earliest possible debate on the Select Committee's Report on the conduct of hon. Members, especially as there appear to be findings—on events that occurred in 1965—based on rules of conduct that were not enunciated until 1974?
I make no comment on anything that was said in the report. I have not had the opportunity to discuss the possibility of a debate through the usual channels, but I hope that the House will be able to debate the matter before the recess and I think that such a debate could take place the week after next.
Will my right hon. Friend keep in mind the need to provide time at the earliest possible moment to debate the Court Report on child health and the Select Committee's Report on battered babies? They involve important matters relating to the welfare of mothers and children which need the attention of this House and of the Department of Health and Social Security.
I fully acknowledge the importance of both the subjects raised by my hon. Friend. She and others have urged upon me that we should have had debates on them before now. As the House can recognise, without my having to mention it, there is little time left before we come to the recess and I cannot promise a full debate. None the less, there are other opportunities, as the House knows, before we depart for the recess to raise individual questions, but I acknowledge that in these matters that would not be a substitute for a debate in the new Session.
The right hon. Gentleman will know of the considerable log-jam of Private Members' legislation, including the Abortion (Amendment) Bill. Can he say whether he has any intention of providing extra time, or Government time, for any of the Private Members' Bills in the queue?[column 788]
There is a considerable log-jam, but this is not an abnormal situation, and the Government have no proposals for providing extra time for Private Members' Bills.
Will my right hon. Friend have urgent discussions with our right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Energy and the Prime Minister so that a decision can be announced to the House on the commencement date of Drax B power station? That will ensure that we do not get a repetition of what happened a few years ago when, to the disappointment of every hon. Member, a major decision was made and announced during the recess without due consideration of the matter by Parliament.
I appreciate the point raised by my hon. Friend, and this matter has been raised frequently in the House over recent weeks. I hope that a statement can be made to the House before we go into recess.
Will the right hon. Gentleman make time for the Abortion (Amendment) Bill, as the Government did in 1966 for the original Bill, bearing in mind that this Bill is the result of two years' work by the Select Committee, that the Standing Committee has completed its work, and that an overwhelming number of Back Bench Members have signed an Early-Day Motion asking for time to be given to debate it?
[That this House, recalling that Her Majesty's Government of 1966 to 1970 provided ample time for the discussing and passing of the Abortion Bill, deprecates the attitude of Her Majesty's Government in refusing time for the discussing of the modest amendments contained in the Abortion (Amendment) Bill of 1977; and urges Her Majesty's Government to accept the expressed will of the House of Commons and provide the necessary time for the discussion of the Abortion (Amendment) Bill.]
There are strong feelings on both sides of the House on this matter, but I think that we had better proceed with the normal arrangements for Private Members' time before any further consideration is given to the matter.
Mr. William Hamilton
On the matter raised by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight), will my [column 789]right hon. Friend instigate an investigation into the way in which Chairmen of Committees dealing with controversial matters such as this are selected, especially as the two Chairmen selected for this Committee were known supporters of the sponsors of the Bill?
Any criticism of a Chairman must be by way of a substantive motion, and not otherwise.
Mr. William Hamilton
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The relevant motion is already on the Order Paper.
[That this House has no confidence in the Chairman of Standing Committee C, the honourable Member for Southend, East dealing with the Abortion (Amendment) Bill.]
There it shall remain until it is debated.
The right hon. Gentleman will have noticed the great demand for a number of matters to be debated before we rise for the recess. Can we take it, and have his assurance, that we shall not waste time on any day on the Committee stage of the Bill dealing with direct elections to the European Assembly?
The hon. Gentleman will see that I have not set that matter down for debate next week. That is not due entirely to his representations, and perhaps not at all to his representations, but at any rate the matter does not appear in next week's business, and it is highly improbable that it will appear in the last week.
Mr. Hugh Jenkins
Will my right hon. Friend look at Early-Day Motion No. 414 dealing with wimbledon and Putney Commons?
[That this House believes that the Wimbledon and Putney Commons are no longer used exclusively by those travelling there by foot and by horse-drawn transport; that the cost of maintaining the commons should no longer fall on those living within three miles of their boundaries; and that the Wimbledom and Putney Commons Conservators set up under the 1875 Act should be abolished, [column 790]together with the special rate, and responsibility for the maintenance of the commons assumed by the Department of the Environment.]
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, almost alone of all people in this country, those living within three miles of Wimbledon and Putney Commons are forced to pay a special rate? Will he provide time for a debate on this matter? It used to be a small thing, but, with the full effects of inflation, it is becoming a severe burden on many of my constituents.
I am sorry to hear of the additional disadvantages suffered by my hon. Friend's constituents, but I cannot say that we can have a debate on the subject before the recess.
Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to Early-Day Motion No. 387 dealing with the remuneration of chemists which has been signed by nearly 200 hon. Members?
[That this House is deeply concerned about the prospect of a sharp acceleration in the rate of closure of chemists'shops, if proper regard is not paid to the chemists' claim for adequate remuneration.] Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for an early debate on this topic?
I cannot arrange for an early debate on this or some other topics that might be raised by other hon. Members in this period, because there is not time before the recess. I thought that the announcement about the possibility of adjourning for the Summer Recess on 29th July was the most helpful statement that I have been able to make in the House for quite a long time.
Mr. Greville Janner
In view of the continual and disgraceful refusal by the Crown Agents to give any information about the continued shipment of equipment to the armed forces and police in Uganda, and the universal disgust at the continuation of this unsavoury practice by a public body, will my right hon. Friend arrange for a statement to be made by the Minister of State for Overseas development or for a debate before we rise for the recess?
I shall consult my right hon. Friend to see whether she thinks that a [column 791]statement should be made, but this is a matter that can be raised by my hon. and learned Friend on some of the other occasions that will arise before we depart for the recess.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Government were defected yet again, this time in the Scottish Grand Committee this morning? Can he tell hon. Members which subjects the Scottish Grand Committee will discuss next week, and on which motion? Further, will he ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland to cease being irresponsible and to give Scottish Members the chance to discuss matters of great importance to Scotland?
I think that if it were the general wish a way could be found to provide further opportunities for debates in the Scottish Grand Committee, but I do not think that the blame for all the misadventures, if I might describe them as such, in the Scottish Grand Committee this morning can be laid at one door. It was most regrettable all round.
Will my right hon. Friend arrange for an early statement to be made about the consequences of the Government's defeat on the Scottish Estimates Debate in the Scottish Grand Committee this morning, because any delay in providing for essential public expenditure to be paid to Scotland could mean a reduction in essential social services and more unemployment? Should not the people of Scotland be told about this latest Tory-SNP conspiracy hatched up by the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, who is living up to his reputation as a political gangster?
Until I heard my hon. Friend speak I was not sure what was the cause of the events that had taken place in the Scottish Grand Committee. I shall have to look into all his allegations before I can accept them, eager and ready as I am, as usual, to take everything that he says on trust. I believe that the difficulties can be overcome and, if necessary, a special statement made to deal with the situation. We shall have to look at that.
Mr. Teddy Taylor
Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that the Government's [column 792]defeat this morning was solely on the basis of their quite discreditable attempt to prevent Scottish Members from debating next Tuesday the serious unemployment situation in Scotland? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that unless he tables a motion before then it will be impossible for Scottish Members next Thursday and the following Tuesday to debate the serious problems of agriculture and transport? Will he assure us that the Secretary of State for Scotland, and Ministers in that Department, will stop these disgraceful attempts to prevent Scottish Members from discussing important Scottish issues?
There is no attempt by my right hon. Friend or by anybody else to stop discussion of these important matters. I dealt with this in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan). I shall look at the matter in the light of the representations made by the hon. Gentleman to see whether it is necessary for a statement to be made at the beginning of next week.
My right hon. Friend has announced an EEC debate on Monday on the three topics—energy, the Community Budget and regional affairs. Will there be three separate debates? May I ask why, instead of announcing EEC proposals in the normal way, he has put the document in the Vote Office? Can he say how many proposals are to be debated and can he assure the House that all the reports of the Scrutiny Committee have been printed?
Perhaps I might take my hon. Friend's second question first. There are a number of matters, and to have read the list would have taken a long time The documents are in the Vote Office, and I hope that my hon. Friend and everybody else will be able to consult them. We thought that it would be more helpful for the House if there were three separate debates. I believe that the view is shared by all those who have looked at the matter. I hope that my hon. Friend agrees that that is the best way to do it. That is what we are proposing.
Mr. Hal Miller
Can the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that should British Leyland need more money either on an interim basis or as a next instalment of its investment policy, there [column 793]will be an opportunity to debate the matter when the Secretary of State makes a statement?
I have already said that I do not believe that there would be any sense in my promising debates on all the different subjects raised by hon. Members. That is not possible. The House knows which opportunities exist for debates before the Recess and hon. Members must look for such opportunities. When statements are made to the House next week or the following week, we cannot promise debates on all of them. Even so, other hon. Members are still pressing for statements. I therefore cannot give the answer for which the hon. Gentleman is asking. Indeed, he, among others, might be dismayed if I agreed.
Will my right hon. Friend recognise that a large body of distinguished medical opinion, as well as huge numbers of the public and the over-whelming proportion of Labour and trade union opinion, would be enraged if the Government gave special time—and privileged time—for discussion of the Abortion (Amendment) Bill? Will he underline once more the fact that the Government have no intention of doing so?
I have nothing to add to what I said before. I fully recognise that there are strong views on this subjects in all parts of the House That is why the Government have proposed to deal with the matter under the normal procedures of the House.
Mr. Michael Latham
Can the right hon. Gentleman give some guidance on the administrative—or perhaps they were political—difficulties which have led to the present situation by which the White Paper on the economic situation, which last week had not been written, is now apparently not to appear at all?
The hon. Member, unlike the rest of the House, has not caught up with the matter. There is no mystery and no difficulty. A statement is to be made to the House by the Chancellor tomorrow and I believe that the House will see that that statement makes the provision of a White Paper unnecessary. There is no mystery about it. Representations were made last week. We considered what would be the most convenient way of [column 794]giving the information to the House and the country and we believe that a statement tomorrow will be the way to do it. When the House has heard the statement, it will probably concur.
Will my right hon. Friend find time—perhaps after midnight one day next week or the week after—to discuss the three motions which I have tabled for the removal of three High Court judges, so that the House may at least have an opportunity to discuss the disgraceful judgment of the honourable Sir Philip Wien in converting a three-year sentence for a savage sexual assault into a six-months' suspended sentence?
[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.]
This cannot be done in any other way except by means of such motions as I have tabled. It is not good trying to work the subject into an Adjournment debate or anything else. It must be done as an entirely separate issue. It is rare that an occasion such as this presents itself, so I urge my right hon. Friend to try to find some time—it does not matter how late in the evening it is—one night before the recess for a discussion of those motions.
My hon. Friend is perfectly correct when he says that the only way in which the House can properly debate criticisms of judicial decisions is by the kind of motion that he has put down, but I cannot offer him any time to debate the matter before the recess. However, he seems to have managed to indicate his views on the question even though we cannot do so except on a motion.
Will the right hon. Gentleman take the trouble to find [column 795]out precisely what happened in the Scottish Grand Committee this morning? Is he aware that the Government Whip moved the closure while his own Minister was speaking and that he was subsequently—not surprisingly—defeated in the vote? What is the consequence of this, particularly since next Tuesday all outstanding Votes will be taken? Does it mean that there is no Supply for Scotland? Does it mean that we should look for a Government-General and send for him?
It does not mean anything of the kind. It certainly does not mean the recall of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), if that is what was being suggested. These matters can be overcome, but the difficulties in the Grand Committee did not occur for the reasons that the hon. Gentleman has suggested. There were some difficulties all around and they must be sorted out for the convenience of all.
Questions have already been asked of my right hon. Friend about the time being allowed for the Abortion (Amendment) Bill. Is he aware that it is an extraordinary concept of democracy that everything possible should be done to ensure that this House is not allowed to finalise the matter and that there are many in the House who, recognising that this matter must always be on a free vote, are pretty contemptuous of those who would do everything to ensure that the matter is not finalised?
I repeat to my right hon. Friend, as well as to others, that there are strong views on all sides and in different parties about this matter. It is sometimes said that because a Bill of this kind has been given a Second Reading, time must automatically be found for all the later stages of discussion. That has not been the case before and I do not believe that it could be made a rule of the House now without infringing the rights of other hon. Members. My right hon. Friend knows that as well as I do.
Capital punishment, Michael.
Mr. John Page
In view of the portmanteau style of the right hon. Gentleman's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) about Private Members' Bills, would the [column 796]right hon. Gentleman, with his usual courtesy, which he showed me recently in an answer on these matters, differentiate between Lords amendments to Bills and other proceedings on Bills? I believe that not since 1900 has time not been found to deal with Lords amendments to Private Members' Bills.
I agree that there is a difference. Lordss amendments should be taken into account in the particular circumstances, but there is a difference, of course. That is one answer to some of my hon. Friends who have not applied their minds to that aspect of the matter.
Has my right hon. Friend noted the concern of the signatories of Early-Day Motion No. 420 on child benefit, and will there be an announcement about the level of child benefit next year before the recess?
[That this House regrets the announcement that there will be no increase in child benefit in November, notes the increasing burden of inflation on families with children, and calls on Her Majesty's Government to ensure a substantial increase in the level of child benefits next April over and above that which will be achieved through the next stage of the phasing out of child tax allowances.]
The Government have certainly taken note of the motion in the name of my hon. Friend and others, which may figure also in the discussions that the House has next week.
Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the answer given by the Secretary of State for Trade, saying that he hoped to sign the new Bermuda Agreement and place a copy in the Library on 23rd July? Since that agreement replaces one which has stood for 30 years, would he not think it appropriate to have a debate on the matter at least before the Summer Recess? Since the right hon. Gentleman has been kind enough to say when he expects the Houses to rise, can he also say, since he must have some idea, when he expects the House to return?
I cannot promise a debate on the Bermuda Agreement, important though it is, for the same kind of reason as I have had to give in so many other cases—although it is possible for the hon. [column 797]Gentleman to raise the matter on the Adjournment and in some other ways. I do not say that that is a satisfactory way of dealing with the matter, but there is not time for the House to discuss all these matters before the recess. As for the date of our return, I hope very much that we shall make sufficient progress next week for me to be able to give the date next week.
In the light of the Prime Minister's statement and the comments this afternoon on the achievement of the British Steel Corporation in capturing a remarkably valuable Venezuelan order, will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House consider the possibility of the House having a debate on the achievements of Great Britain, of its industries and its inventiveness, to give us an opportunity to rebut the “knockers” of Great Britain and to follow the example of Mr. Peter Boon, the Chairman of Hoover Limited?
I quite agree with what my hon. Friend says, and I shall be glad to hear him make that speech at rather greater length during one of the debates on economic affairs next week.
Several hon. Members
Order. I propose to call those hon. Members who have been standing at every opportunity up to now, and any members of the Opposition Front Bench if they think it necessary.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is one thing for him to announce a debate on the report of the Select Committee on the Conduct of Members through the usual channels, but it is important for him also to indicate at an early stage what will be the terms of the motion in the Government's name, whether or not the usual channels agree with that? Does my right hon. Friend realise that this matter will not be spirited away and that if the House is to retain any credibility whatever in the eyes of the public outside—it has not got very much—it had better get on with the job and clean the matter up?
I repudiate any suggestion from my hon. Friend or anyone else that the credit of the House is low throughout [column 798]the country. I do not in any sense whatever accept what my hon. Friend says. Indeed, I believe that the House has always shown great intelligence, determination and skill in dealing with many of these matters, and I am sure that we shall deal with this subject in the same way. It is not at all a question of agreement between the usual channels. It is for the House of Commons as a whole to decide the matter, and every individual Member of Parliament will be able to give his decision upon it.
Since it is now nearly a year since publication of the Flowers Report on Nuclear Power and the Environment, and as it is several weeks since the Government tabled their official response to that report, will the Lord President reconsider his replies to me on the matter and arrange for a debate before the House rises for the recess?
I acknowledge again to the hon. Gentleman—I have a suspicion that I have done so before—that that subject has a strong claim for a debate. The difficulty is that time is getting much shorter. I cannot give him a promise, but I acknowledge that this matter is obviously a strong candidate for a full day's debate in the House.
Mr. Ian Lloyd
Although it would be unfortunate if the House were to go into recess without having an opportunity to debate any of the reports of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, which are of close relevance to the nation's industrial affairs, does the Lord President agree that it would be a dereliction of duty if we went into recess without taking an opportunity to debate events in Southern Africa?
These are questions which may be raised in different forms and which have been discussed in different forms. Again, I have to ask that the House recognise that there is limited time available.
Is the Lord President aware of the great concern in the education would which has been caused by leaks that the Cabinet has rejected key parts of the Green Paper submitted by the Secretary of State for Education and Science, especially those parts relating to the rôle for parents? Will the Green Paper be published before the House [column 799]rises for the recess, and shall we have a chance to debate it fully before 29th July?
I cannot promise a full debate, and I ask those in the education world and everyone else not to stay awake at night worrying about such leaks, because most of the leaks I have seen are even wider of the mark than usual.
Will the Leader of the House recall that it was as long ago as 9th February when the Franks Report on a register for immigrants was published and that on that occasion both Front Benches said that the matter should be debated? Since it now looks as though this matter cannot be debated before November, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that this long delay is tantamount to a stifling of urgent debate on a matter of great public concern?
Differing views in different parts of the House are held about the urgency of various questions for debate. The hon. Gentleman considers that this matter should have been debated, but his view has not been shared by everyone else. As I have said, it could have been raised on a Supply Day, but it was not chosen. The House must recognise, as anyone who listens to these questions on Thursdays will agree, that there is pressure for a huge range of subjects to be debated which, unfortunately, cannot be debated in view of the time available.
When do the Government intend that the House of Commons should take a decision about the method of election to the European Parliament? Do the Government's Liberal allies—[Hon. Members: “Where are they?” ]—wherever they may be, and the rest of their allies, approve of the proposition that the House should go into recess without this question having been decided and with the Boundary Commission having no basis on which it can do any work during the whole of the summer?
If the hon. Gentleman was present during the debates a week or so ago, he would, I think, have noted that it was recognised in many quarters that it would not be possible to proceed with the Bill this Session and therefore it would not be possible to decide the ques[column 800]tion to which he has referred. It will have to be dealt with later.
As the Public Bill Office has advised me, among others, that the Scottish Grand Committee will meet to discuss Scottish Estimates, and, in particular, agriculture, next Thursday, will the Lord President make sure that the Government do not, out of pique because they lost the direct labour Bill frustrate that debate, since even he on Bastille Day, which this is, should appreciate that only some of us may picked but all of us have to eat?
I assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that the Government will not act out of pique in this matter or in any other. I hope that on 14th July, on Bastille Day, all hon. Members will recognise that what happened in the Scottish Grand Committee was not of great revolutionary consequence.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. A few minutes ago my right hon. Friend the Lord President announced that there would be three separate debates on Monday, and, if my memory serves me aright, he said that the list of documents which the House should consider on those motions was too long to be read out. As I understand it, the House has established the Scrutiny Committee to refer to the House only those EEC proposals and documents which raise matters of importance which the House should debate.
I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that the fact that the list is too long to be read out suggests that there is a large number of such documents of which both the general public and right hon. and hon. Members may not be aware at least until tomorrow night, and that the way in which the House is being advised of such business is not such as to meet the best practice of the House, the best interest of the United Kingdom or, indeed, the interests of those many hon. Members who in the past week or so have expressed concern in one way or another about democracy in the EEC. I hope, Mr. Speaker—and I so submit to you—that this practice will not be adopted in the future.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. All that I can say is that there are problems both ways. In [column 801]announcing business, the Government wish to give as much indication as possible to the House of documents which are to be discussed, but when there is a considerable number of such documents it would be very tedious for the House if they were all read out. I believe that the arrangements which we have made will enable every hon. Member interested to ensure that he can get hold of the documents required in the debate.