BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Will Michael Footthe Leader of the House please state the business for next week and after?
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)
I should like to indicate the business of the House until the Summer Adjournment.
The business will be as follows:
Monday 24th July—Supply [29th Allotted Day]: there will be a debate on unemployment.
At 10 o'clock the Questions will be put on all outstanding Votes.
Motion on the Dock Labour Scheme 1978.
Tuesday 25th July—Debate on the economy, including the White Paper on inflation.
Wednesday 26th July—Any Lords Messages on the Scotland and Wales Bills and on the Parliamentary Pensions Bill.
Thursday 27th July—Proceedings on the Dividends Bill.
Friday 28th July—Motion on the Valuation List (Second Postponement) Order.
Motions on Ministers' and Members' Salaries, Allowance and Pensions.
Motion on the Fifth Report from the Select Committee on House of Commons (Services) Session 1977–78 on New Building for Parliament.
Monday 31st July—Lords amendments to the Transport Bill.
Motions on the Drivers' Hours (Harmonisation with Community Rules) Regulations and on the Community Road Transport Rules (Exemptions) Regulations.
Tuesday 1st August—Proceedings on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill. [column 787]
Wednesday 2nd August—Debate on Rhodesia.
Thursday 3rd August—It will be proposed that the House should meet at 11 a.m., take Questions until 12 noon and adjourn at 5 p.m. for the Summer Recess until Tuesday 24th October.
The House may also be asked, Mr. Speaker, to consider any other Lords amendments and delegated legislation which may be received.
Sticking strictly to next week, may I ask the Lord President two questions? First, he will be aware that the Dividends Bill has not yet been published. When may we expect it? It is very quick and unusual to take a Bill in the House only a few days after it is published. Secondly, is he expecting to take Tuesday's debate on the economy on a motion?
On the first question, the Dividends Bill will be published tomorrow. There has been quite a lot of discussion about the prospect over recent weeks. I hope that tomorrow we shall also table a motion for the debate on Tuesday.
Several Hon. Members
Order. With regard to the business for next week, for the debate on Tuesday 1st August on the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill, hon. Members may hand in to my office by noon on Thursday 27th July their names and the topics that they wish to raise. The Ballot will be carried out as on the last occasion. An hon. Member may hand in only his own name and one topic.
The debate will cover all the main Estimates originally presented for the current financial year in House of Commons Papers 212 and 230, and the Supplementary and Revised Estimates presented since then in House of Commons Papers 536, 537 and 538. It will be in order on Second Reading to raise any topic falling within the compass of those Estimates.
I shall put out the result of the Ballot later, on 27th July.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Despite what you have just said, can you confirm that it will be in [column 788]order for any hon. Member who catches the eye of the occupant of the Chair to say anything he pleases that is within the rules of order on the Consolidated Fund Bill, though it has not been balloted for?
Order. The hon. Gentleman is quite right, but the operative words are “any hon. Member who catches the eye of the occupant of the Chair.”
Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the debate on Rhodesia takes the very widest form? It is essential that we should discuss all the implications of the situation before the House adjourns.
I expect that the debate will take place on the Adjournment. I am sure, therefore, that my hon. Friend's suggestion will be satisfactory to the House.
Can the Lord President describe a little more closely the procedures by which we shall tackle the Dividends Bill in one way? Will there not have to be some slightly unusual procedures in order to achieve that? Can he also say whether the Government intend to make that Bill an issue of confidence?
I think that we should see how we proceed. I have announced the proceedings on the Bill today, and I hope that we can get them through in one day. [Hon. Members: “Oh.” ] Had I gone further than that in my first announcement, I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman would have been the first to complain.
May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to Early-Day Motion No. 543 on the Order Paper, standing in my name and in the names of 121 colleagues in the Parliamentary Labour Party? I acknowledge the Government's difficulties in the matter of the Chilean aero-engines, but I ask my right hon. Friend, as a friend of freedom, to take the strongest possible line and ensure that in the course of next week we have a statement to show that the Government are prepared to put pressure on the Chilean junta slightly above the technical considerations of the Fascist air force's ownership of those engines.
[That this House is opposed to the return to the Government of Chile of the Rolls-Royce Avon engines.][column 789]
As I am sure my hon. Friend knows, the Government have taken a whole series of measures over the past two years which have indicated the present Government's attitude towards the present Chilean regime. I do not believe that any Member of the House or anybody in the country can be in any doubt about that. Whether it will be desirable to have a statement on the subject next week, I am not prepared to say now. But no doubt my hon. Friend saw the statement made by the Prime Minister yesterday.
Mrs. Winifred Ewing
Will the Leader of the House make a statement next week regarding the date of the referendum, bearing in mind that today he has indicated that Parliament will be in recess until 24th October and that, in view of the six weeks' notice that is required, we have a position whereby the earliest date for the referendum after that is December? Is it not time that we had some kind of forward planning of the timescale to know when the referendum will take place?
I think that what the House should do is to pass the Bill, get the Act on the statute book, have the Royal Assent, and then we can see how the legislation should proceed on that matter. There is plenty of time for all that to happen.
Does my right hon. Friend recall that in recent weeks he has acknowledged freely the Government's undertaking to table a motion concerning the way in which we deal with EEC orders and, in particular, the responsibility of Ministers of any Government? In view of the Prime Minister's letter to the NEC last October about the freedom of Governments and national Parliaments, how does my right hon. Friend view the fact that he has not announced such a motion, and how can this Parliament be free if we do not discuss the matter before the end of this Session?
I am fully aware of the whole background to this question, but there is another Thursday before the recess when an announcement can be made about the completion of our business. That may be the time for me to make a statement on the subject.[column 790]
Mr. Hal Miller
In view of the shoddy manner of the dismissal of the chairman of the Redditch development corporation and the appointment of somebody without the relevant experience at a critical time in the corporation's history, and in view, indeed, of the proliferation of quangos and the appointment thereto of people with connection with Ministers and members of the Labour Party, will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the advance of the corporate State and the position of these quangos?
I have read a whole heap of nonsense about quangos and the alleged advance of the corporate State in the newspapers over recent weeks. All I can say to the hon. Gentleman is that he seems to have added even to that rubbishy total.
Will my right hon. Friend arrange, before the House goes into recess, for the Government to make a statement on the extraordinary statement of the chairman of the British Gas Corporation that gas prices might well go up in spite of a record profit of £180 million? Can it also be made clear that the future financing of the capital programme of that corporation is a matter for this Parliament and not solely a matter for the chairman of the corporation?
Of course, these are all matters in which Parliament takes an interest and on which it has every right to give its view. But whether there should be a statement on the subject before we go into recess is another matter. If my hon. Friend or others wish to raise this matter in the considerable opportunities that remain before we depart for the recess, that is for him and for some other hon. Gentlemen.
May we please have a statement next week on the Government's attitude towards the Select Committee report on the National Land Fund? Will the Lord President also tell us how much business is left for 24th October?
On the first matter, I cannot promise any statement, and I am not sure whether it is essential for the House to have such a statement, but I shall look into the hon. Gentleman's point. I am sure that there is still a further opportunity when I would be able to give an [column 791]indication to the hon. Gentleman and the House about the exact business which we might assemble to conduct on 24th October.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that on 30th July last year, the last day on which the House sat before the recess, television licences were increased, even though two days earlier the Home Office had blatantly denied any knowledge of an increase? Will he give an assurance that this will not happen again? Will he look at the Early-Day Motion put down yesterday, signed by 100 Labour Back-Benchers and handed in last night, calling for a different system of television licensing? If the licence is to be increased before the end of the Session and before the election, may we have a debate on it here and now?
[That this House considers that the television licence should be abolished and the finance for the British Broad-casting Corporation should be provided out of taxation and out of the proceeds of the independent television levy.]
I have seen the motion put down by my hon. Friend and signed by others of my hon. Friends. There will be a statement next week on the Annan report. I believe that that is the proper time for my hon. Friend to put similar questions to the Home Secretary on the subject.
Will the Leader of the House confirm that the Dividends Bill is not a Money Bill and, therefore, that it will have to be considered in another place? Will he indicate whether, in our arrangements before the recess, there is a slot when this House will have the opportunity of considering any Lords amendments that might arise therefrom?
It is not money Bill. Therefore, it would have to go through another place. Who can tell whether another place would wish to pass any amendments to such a short and satisfactory Bill? But if it did wish to do so, I have no doubt that the House of Commons is fully capable of dealing with it.
In view of the phoney trials that have taken place recently in the Soviet Union and of the appalling behaviour of the Government in Chile in perpetrating atrocities almost daily, [column 792]would it not be a good thing for this House, before we rise for the Easter Recess—[Hon. Members: “Summer.” ]—the Summer Recess—to debate human rights?
I hope that Conservative Members will join us and take more cognisance of the seriousness of this aspect than of any trivial lapsus linguae.
This is an issue which is giving great concern to many ordinary people in our country and in many other countries throughout the world. It would be a good thing for this House of Commons to declare itself.
I fully accept what my hon. Friend has said about the great importance of all the subjects that he has mentioned, but I do not think that it is necessary for the House of Commons to have a special debate on those different matters to make its views known. I believe that many speakers in the House have made their views very clear on those matters on a number of occasions.
Mr. Kenneth Lewis
Why cannot we have a social contract voluntary agreement on dividends, just as we have on pay? Why must there be legislation on it? Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us when the next Session of Parliament will start? Will it be when we come back in October?
On the second point, I do not think that I should hazard any further guesses now. As I have said, we shall have plenty of time to consider that matter.
The subject of dividends can be debated by the hon. Member on Thursday if he catches Mr. Speaker's eye. That is what the debate is for. It is to decide whether the views of the hon. Gentleman, or our views, for assisting the nation in this respect should prevail.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that it would be extremely regrettable, to say the least, if he failed to carry out his repeated promise to introduce, in this Session, a resolution dealing with the better control of EEC legislation? Why cannot he honour that promise now?
I do not have anything to add to what I said in reply to the previous question. I am fully aware of the debate [column 793]that we had in the House and of the undertaking which I gave.
May I press the Leader of the House further on the question of providing time for a debate on human rights? May I draw his attention, in particular, to Early-Day Motion No. 525, which has been signed by over 200 Members in all parts of the House? That number of signatures indicates the concern felt in this House that we should have an opportunity to discuss this matter, which bears directly upon our relations with many countries, in particular the Soviet Union?
[That this House expresses its revulsion and that of the British people at the trials of Anatoly Shcharansky and Alexander Ginsburg and the suppression of human rights in the Soviet Union; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take appropriate action.]
I fully accept what the hon. Gentleman says about the concern felt in all parts of the House about this issue of human rights. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) has tabled a motion on this matter, signed by 176 Labour Members. Of course it is a question that arouses widespread concern among my right hon. and hon. Friends and, I believe, in all parts of the House. I believe that that motion has served an excellent purpose in making the views of the House widely known. But I do not think that it is necessary to have a full debate on the subject, desirable though that may be in certain circumstances. In any case, as I have already said, there is considerable pressure upon business in the House before we adjourn.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that by deciding to adjourn on Thursday instead of Friday he has eliminated the possibility of a debate on the Civil Service based on the reports of the Expenditure Committee and the Government's observations upon the first of those reports? Surely the Civil Service is a subject of importance to us all, which might, perhaps, be better dealt with before we find ourselves in any other political circumstances which might occur later in this Parliament, or just after its dissolution? Could we not consider the [column 794]question of the Civil Service before we adjourn?
There is a good argument for a debate on the subject. I have no doubt that at some stage the House must debate the report of the Committee over which my hon. Friend presided and the Government's response. However, I do not believe that it would be for the convenience of the House to have the debate on the day suggested by my hon. Friend. It is not a question of eliminating a debate on that subject. I had thought that there was more likely to be criticism of the proposal to sit until the Thursday.
Several Hon. Members
Order. To protect the business covered by the timetable motion, I must ask for briefer questions. It is unlikely that I shall be able to call everyone.
Will the Lord President tell the House how many clauses there will be in the Bill to control dividends? Will he tell the House how long will be allocated for the Committee stage of that Bill and how long there will be for Third Reading?
The hon. Gentleman should wait to see the Bill. In response to the request from the right hon. Lady, I made it clear that the Bill would be published tomorrow. The House will be able to see that it is a nice, short, sweet Bill. I am sure it could pass through the House of Commons in that kind of atmosphere.
Can my right hon. Friend find time before the Summer Recess to debate the Second Reading of the Ten-Minute Bill which I successfully introduced on Tuesday, along with a debate on the relevant Early-Day Motion, No. 472, so that Government supporters can have a bit more time than I had on Tuesday to compare the comments in 1956 of Mr. Peter Thorneycroft, as he was then, with the actions of big business in the 1970s?
[That this House notes that the Chairman of the Conservative Party is also Chairman of Pirelli Limited, a firm found to have participated in an illegal price fixing ring; and calls upon the Chairman of the Conservative Party to keep his mouth firmly shut on the issues of law and [column 795]order, morality and public expenditure in the forthcoming General Election.]
I cannot say that that matter can be pressed during any consideration of the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend although, as I have indicated already, there are other opportunities before we depart for private Members to return to some of these subjects.
Referring to the comments of the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) about friends of freedom, would the Lord President remind the House of the Prime Minister's words that the Chilean aero-engines belong to the Chilean Government and have been held in this country for four years, and that if we are to talk about freedom, our prime concern should be freedom under the law in this country? So long as right hon. and hon. Friends of the Leader of the House and certain members of certain trade unions insist on defying the law of this country and court orders, we ought, instead of worrying about other people's freedom, to be worrying about our own.
All these factors were taken into account in the statement made by the Prime Minister yesterday. But I think it would be of benefit to people throughout the world and particularly to those suffering the great hardships of imprisonment in Chile, if, for once, from the Opposition Benches a voice were raised speaking up for freedom there, too. The Government of this country have taken a whole series of actions which express the real attitude of freedom lovers in this country on that subject.
Will there be an announcement next week on the fourth television channel as it affects Wales? For the convenience of hon. Members, could my right hon. Friend give a solemn and binding undertaking that the House will resume on 24th October?
My hon. Friend must not tempt me too much on the second matter. All Leaders of the House who announce the date when the House reassembles after the Summer Recess have to make that statement subject to events that might occur. That will be indicated, no doubt, when we come to the Adjournment debate.
On my hon. Friend's first point, I ask him to await the statement on the Annan [column 796]report which the Home Secretary will be making next week.
Mr. David Price
Reverting to next Tuesday's business, will the Leader of the House bear in mind that it is rather important that the House should have a substantive motion on two very important matters on which I am sure the Prime Minister would like the views of the House. One is the result of the Bonn conference and the second is the Government's White Paper on pay policy. I am sure it is right that before we adjourn the House should express specific approval or disapproval, as the case may be, on these two very important matters.
I shall certainly take into account the representations of the hon. Gentleman in the framing of the motion, which we hope to put down tomorrow.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that there is another basic freedom called “the right to work” which the free world does not seem to handle very well? [Hon. Members: “Oh.” ] There are 70 million people on the dole. In that context, is it not a disgrace that we have never had a chance to debate the Franco-German plan which came from Bremen and which will assist the West Germans in dominating our economy and assist the French in ensuring that the CAP remains with us for ever? Will not this affect our dole queues, and should we not debate it rather than let the nonelected, pro-Common Market civil servants look at it in private?
It is not a question of looking at these matters in private.
That is what they are doing.
No, it is a question of discussion. The Government make their proposals on all these matters, and the House can debate them. The House will have some discussion on these matters on Monday and some discussion on them on Tuesday. I believe that in all these discussions, and in those in the country generally, there will be an increasing recognition of the leading part which this country has played internationally in assisting in dealing with the problem of unemployment. Of course, there has to be a whole range of measures on other matters as well, but I do not believe for [column 797]that reason that this House, or anybody in the House, or anybody in the House, should decry the efforts that this Government have made—more than those of almost any other country in the world—to try to show how we can take an international approach to the problem.
In the light of the demonstration today by London civil servants against the possibility of their jobs being transferred to Glasgow, and in the light of the Government's own manifesto commitments to jobs dispersal to that area, can we expect, before the recess, an announcement as to which Civil Service jobs will be dispersed for local recruitment, because the transfer of unwilling Londoners to Glasgow does nothing to solve our unemployment problem?
I do not believe that there can be a statement on the particular aspects of the matter that the hon. Lady raises, but the Government have made clear their general commitment to a programme of dispersal. I believe that that can be of assistance to people in Scotland and in other parts of the country. I think that it is unwise for the hon. Lady to decry those efforts.
Is the Leader of the House aware that yesterday the General Electric Company announced the appointment of a man called Angus Ogilvy to its board of directors and that this person not too long ago was obliged to resign from 26 directorships in something of a hurry, not to put too fine a point on it? Coming as it does——
Order. The hon. Member knows that if he is referring to a member of the Royal Family——
No, I am not.
If the hon. Member does not know I shall tell him. He knows that we must refer courteously, and without casting reflections on them, to members of the Royal Family. That has been the order in this House for centuries.
Perhaps some time, Mr. Speaker, you will tell me what the code is. However, following, as it does, so recently on the revelation that the chairman of the Conservative Party, as chairman of another great business organisation, was involved in a massive fraud of the Post Office—[column 798]
Order. The hon. Gentleman knows—it has been indicated earlier this week—that it is quite out of order to make a statement of that sort about a member of another place——
Order.—and he must withdraw that statement at once.
To whom was I referring?
Order. The hon. Gentleman told the House to whom he was referring. He said it was the chairman of the Conservative Party, who is a member of another place.
In view then of other events of which you are well aware, Mr. Speaker——
Order. I wish the House would let me handle this. The hon. Gentleman will withdraw that statement at once.
Yes, all right.
Do we understand each other now, Mr. Speaker?
Do I understand that the hon. Gentleman has withdrawn?
Yes. Is it not therefore time that this House at least had a debate on the quality of Britain's top management and seriously considered setting up a Royal Commission to investigate the senior management of our large business organisations?
I think that the chances of setting up a Royal Commission before we adjourn for the recess are very small. I do not think we have much chance even of setting up a Republican Commission, which is what I might favour myself.
Several Hon. Members
Order. I shall not take business questions after four o'clock.
Referring to the Dividends Bill, which is very important because of the damage it may do to many pension funds, will the Leader of the House give an undertaking that the proper interval [column 799]will take place between Second Reading and the start of the Committee stage upstairs? Would it not be kind to hon. Members who are to sit on that Committee to give them a little notice, because it will interfere with our holidays? I should be delighted to volunteer, but would the Leader of the House tell his hon. Friends who are to sit on the Committee? Could he also say when he will recall the House in order to consider the Report stage?
Any volunteering from the hon. Gentleman has to be regarded with the utmost suspicion. I therefore approach the matter in that mood. As I have indicated before, I think that it would be perfectly satisfactory for the House to carry through this measure on that day. I hope that the House will approach the matter in that light.
Mr. Loyden—the last question.
May I ask the Lord President whether, in view of the serious situation existing in the docks industry, he could give further time on Monday next to the debate on the dock labour scheme?
I shall consider it, but I cannot give a promise. I should have thought that we would be able to deal with the order in the normal hour and a half. I accept fully what my hon. Friend says about the importance of the matter, but there is also the question of how late the vote should take place, and that also has to be taken into account.
Several Hon. Members
Order. We must move on.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I must ask your indulgence because I am a little confused. When hon. Members raise in the House matters which they think are fact but which other people think are not fact, what exactly are we to do? If such matters impinge upon the Royal Family or the chairman of the Conservative Party, who happens to be a member of the House of Lords, but if hon. Members in all honesty believe that they are factual matters and nothing else, what exactly is the position then of ordinary simple Back-Bench Members [column 800]such as myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick)? How can we raise matters of fact and then be ruled out of order and asked to withdraw statements that hon. Members think are perfectly legitimate on the basis of facts as they understand them?
Perhaps I may say to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), who is a good House of Commons man, that he knows as well as any other hon. Member in the Chamber this afternoon where the line should be drawn. When personal attacks are made on a member of another place they have to be stopped. In another place, the members are not allowed to make personal attacks on Members of this House.
Secondly, with regard to the Royal Family it is clearly laid down in “Erskine May” , and it accords with the good taste of every hon. Member in the House, that we should speak with respect of the Royal Family.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the Lord President of the Council to voice republican sympathies within the House of Commons?
That is a good old custom that goes back a very long way.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the Lord President of Her Majesty's Privy Council and the Leader of this House to stand at the Dispatch Box as he just has done and declare republican principles?
There is nothing in the right hon. Gentleman's statements which obliges me to prevent him from speaking. If hon. Members will read Hansard for the past century they will find many similar statements.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Here is the last century.
Will you, Mr. Speaker, have discussions with both sides of the House in relation to the broadcasting of the procedures of the House which many hon. Members now feel are bringing the House into contempt with the public?[column 801]
I always have chats with both sides of the House about the running of the affairs of the House and I shall bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman says. Mr. Ridley—the last point of order, I hope.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You did reply to an hon. Member opposite to the effect that we were not able to say anything discourteous about any member of the Royal Family and you quoted “Erskine May” in support of that. I think the whole House subscribes to that, but I put it to you that it is extraordinarily discourteous to the Head of the Royal Family, Her Majesty the Queen, to say that one would prefer to have not a Royal Commission but a Republican Commission. I should have thought that if ever there were a flagrant example of a statement made in the House going exactly counter to the statement that you have just made about “Erskine May” , it was the remarks made by the Lord President a few moments ago. I ask him to withdraw those remarks.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I had not thought that a sense of humour had entirely departed from the House. If Her Majesty the Queen asked me to apologise or withdraw, of course I should be very eager and would do so immediately. When I see her, I hope next week, I shall ask her and I shall set the matter as right as soon as courtesy and common decency can. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will recover his sense of humour. The rest of the House is well in advance of him on this matter.