BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
May I ask Michael Footthe Lord President 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: [column 711]
Monday 26th June—Supply [25th Allotted Day]: a debate on trade and the prosperity of the nation.
Tuesday 27th June—Remaining stages of the Employment (Continental Shelf) Bill, of the House of Commons (Administration) Bill and of the Parliamentary Pensions Bill.
Wednesday 28th June—Motions on EEC documents on contracts negotiated away from business premises, Nos. R/113/77 and R/134/78, on the aeronautical sector, Nos. R/2461/75, R/1860/76, R/222/77, and R/1964/77 and on criminal law, No. R/2043/76.
Motion on the Ancillary Dental Workers (Amendment) Regulations.
Thursday 29th June—Supply [26th Allotted Day]: until 7 o'clock a debate on the problems of pharmacists.
The Fourth Report from the House of Commons (Services) Committee, Session 1977–78, House of Commons Paper No. 472 on Members' Secretaries and Research Assistants (Severance Payments).
The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed Private Business for consideration at 7 o'clock.
Friday 30th June—Motions on the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 (Continuance) Order and on the Northern Ireland Act 1974 (Interim Period Extension) Order.
Monday 3rd July—Supply [27th Allotted Day]: subject for debate to be announced.
May I put three brief questions to the Leader of the House? First, he will be aware of the continuing dispute between the electricians and the Health Service and will probably have seen reports in the Press today about the situation at Great Ormond Street where heart surgery is having to be postponed. Will he undertake that David Ennalsthe Secretary of State keeps the House fully informed about the latest developments? Secondly, as we are now one further week on than last week—[Hon Members: “Oh” .]—Well, it has given the right hon. Gentleman one more week to decide—has he decided whether the limit on dividends will not be reintroduced when it expires shortly? Thirdly, when may we expect [column 712]the report on police pay and a statement upon it?
I cannot say exactly when the report on police pay will be coming, but it will be very soon. With regard to dividend control, to which the right hon. Lady referred last week, the Government have not made a final decision, but we do not believe that it will be necessary to have fresh legislation on the matter. With regard to the right hon. Lady's first question, I shall consult my right hon. Friend with regard to informing the House. Of course, we are aware of the importance of the whole question.
Several hon. Members
Order. Before I call anyone, may I remind the House that today two short debates are to be initiated, one by the Scottish National Party and one by Plaid Cymru. Therefore, I shall have to limit the time devoted to business questions. In addition, a major statement is to follow, and that will take some time.
Will my right hon. Friend make a statement next week about the salaries of Members of Parliament? As ever, we are the last in the queue. I think that the time has come for the increase. Will he say when? Will he make it next week?
We shall be bringing before the House very soon, although not next week, the resolutions required to carry this through. But, of course, the date of the increase will be 13th June, which is a date similar to last year.
Will the Leader of the House once again repeat what he said to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition about dividend control? He said that there would be no need for further legislation. By that did he mean that there would be no further dividend control?
I said I did not believe that there would be any necessity for fresh legislation. The Government are still considering the matter, but I am not yet in a position to say how we shall make a statement to the House.
Mr. Greville Janner
Will my right hon. Friend confirm the reports that before the end of this month there is to [column 713]be a Green Paper of the problems of the elderly which will recommend a lowering of the voluntary retirement age for men to 63? In view of the great importance of this subject, can he assure the House that there will be time for a debate on retirement before the House goes into recess?
My hon. and learned Friend had better wait to see the Green Paper before he or I make comments upon its recommendations. When the Green Paper is presented to the House, the House will then be able to consider whether it wants a debate at an early date and, if so, whether there is time for it.
Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a statement on the rather lamentable industrial action being taken by Post Office telephone engineers which is causing grave inconvenience to many of my constituents and to many other people in the country? Up to now it has been an example of people taking industrial action, not doing the job for which they are paid, yet getting fully paid for it.
I cannot comment on what the hon. Gentleman has said about the particular aspect of the dispute, but I shall certainly consult my right hon. Friend about whether we should have a statement.
In view of the fact that the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) has suggested that the Labour Party wants to bring in a Nazi-type system, the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition has suggested that we want to bring in an East European-type system, and the spokesman on Scottish affairs has suggested that we are all Nixonites, is it not time that we had a debate so that we could clearly explain the democratic socialist concepts of the Labour Party? If the Conservative Opposition are not prepared to have such a debate on a Supply Day, as they are obviously not prepared to have a debate on immigration, could not the Government find time for a discussion on this matter?
I am sure that the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) must be thoroughly ashamed of the statement which he made. I think that much the [column 714]kindest thing which the House can do—I know what a kind heart my hon. Friend has—is to say nothing more about it. I am sure that the right hon. Lady would be the first to agree with me.
Is the Leader of the House aware that his statement on dividend control may have given rise to some unintended confusion? Can he confirm that without further legislation the existing controls lapse? Therefore, the only interpretation which can be put on his remarks is that any future dividend control will be a matter for a voluntary code and not a statutory one.
The hon. Gentleman should put no such interpretation on the words that I used. The words that I used were not those which he put into my mouth. A statement will be made at the appropriate time. A number of factors have to be carefully considered as part of the Government's general approach to counter-inflation, and I am fully aware of the third factor, mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, about 31st July.
Mr. Alan Lee Williams
Will my right hon. Friend consider a debate before the recess on the report of the Select Committee on waterways and canals?
I must tell my hon. Friend and the rest of the House that we have considerable pressure on the Government's time before the recess. Therefore, I cannot make any promises on the subject. I shall have to say the same, I fear, to quite a number of right hon. and hon. Members today and on the one or two other occasions which will occur before we reach the recess.
Several Hon. Members
I propose to allow business questions until a quarter to Four.
Will the Leader of the House clarify what he said about the continuing powers which he may seek to extend dividend control? It is the general assumption that substantive legislation is needed for this. He said that substantive legislation would not be required. Is it the Government's intention to introduce the extension of dividend control by means of an additional clause to the Finance Bill?[column 715]
There are various possibilities. I have nothing further to add to what I have said already in response to the Leader of the Opposition and the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen).
Mr. Arthur Lewis
The Leader of the House will be aware that on Thursday of last week the Government promised a White Paper on what I call freedom of information but what my hon. Friend would probably call the Official Secrets Act. Is it to come next week or the week after? Time is getting a little short, is it not?
It is true that time is getting a little short, but I cannot say whether it will be next week or the week after.
Mr. Arthur Lewis
Is it a secret?
I can assure my hon. Friend that there will be a White Paper on the subject before the recess.
When does my right hon. Friend intend to table the motion about tomorrow's business on the EEC European Foundation for the furtherance of European union? Are the Government in favour of this concept? If not, will they oppose the proposal?
For the debate on the subject which takes place tomorrow, the Government are proposing a “take note” motion. I think that we should see how we get on then. But I understand fully the representations on the subject which my hon. Friends have made to me.
The right hon. Gentleman said that we should be discussing the Fourth Report of the Services Committee next week. Does he recall that the Fifth Report deals with the new building for Parliament? In view of the very important decisions to be taken and the need for them to be taken at an early date, will he assure us that we shall have an opportunity to debate that report before the recess?
I know the interest of the hon. Member and others in the subject, but I fear that I cannot give an absolute promise that we can debate it at an early stage. I know the desire of the House to discuss it, but I have to underline what I said in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Williams) about the pressure on the business of the [column 716]House, and that must be taken into account, too.
As we approach the end of the Session, is my right hon. Friend aware that he has not yet fulfilled his undertaking to bring forward a resolution to improve parliamentary control over EEC legislation? When does he intend to do that?
I am fully aware of the undertaking which I gave on that subject and of the necessity for the House to discuss the matter.
Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Will the Leader of the House make clear the position on police pay? Is it intended that the Edmund-Davies report will be published with a statement by the Home Secretary at the same time, or will there be a gap? Secondly, as this will touch on many matters besides pay, will there be an opportunity for a debate before the House rises?
We had better wait and see what is in the report before I can answer those questions. Whether the House will want a debate, whether there will be time for a debate and what should be the nature of that debate are matters that we must consider when we have the report and the Government's statement on it.
Mr. Ioan Evans
When my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool Walton (Mr. Heffer) referred to the speech of the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave), the Leader of the Opposition laughed. Will my right hon. Friend ask the right hon. Lady to dissociate herself from that speech, because it caused a great offence to those millions of people who came back from the last war——
Will the hon. Member ask a question on the business for next week?
The question is whether we could have an opportunity next week for the Leader of the Opposition to make her position plain regarding that offensive speech.
May I ask the Leader of the House whether it is true that next Friday we shall discuss on a Northern Ireland day a Bill which will be published by then on the implementation of the recommendations of Mr. Speaker's Conference [column 717]on Northern Ireland? If not, why will not the Bill be ready by that date?
I think that the hon. Member knows the answer to his own question. If he has followed the answers that I have given on previous occasions on this subject, he will know perfectly well that we are not proposing to deal with that next Friday. There is other business concerning Northern Ireland to be dealt with then.
Will my right hon. Friend provide time next week to debate the scandal of the Tory Party opposing every job creation and job saving measure proposed in this House and then taking £11,000 for itself from the job-creation scheme? Apart from the customary hypocrisy that this demonstrates, does my right hon. Friend consider it appropriate for taxpayers' money to be paid to a political party of that kind?
That is a somewhat wider question, but I dare say that many of these aspects of the attitude of the Conservative Party to real job creation schemes will arise when we return to our discussions in the House on the Finance Bill.
Several hon. Members
I am afriaid that we must move on.