The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)
The House may wish to know that in addition to the business already announced for next week there will be, at the end of business on Monday, the Scottish orders on rating and valuation, and on Tuesday, at 7 p.m., private business named for consideration by the Chairman of Ways and Means.
May I ask Michael Footthe right hon. Gentleman one question? Does he remember that last week he said that he expected the debate on Rhodesia to take place on the Adjournment? Will he confirm that that is so?
Yes. I gather that that is the desire of the House, and I should think that it is the best way for us to proceed.
Several Hon. Members
Order. I remind the House that we had business questions for next week on Thursday last. Questions now should be limited to the Business Statement that has just been made.
Does my right hon. Friend not intend to table a motion for discussion next week on the control of EEC legislation——
Order. The right hon. Gentleman could not have heard what I said. Questions must be limited to the Business Statement that has been made [column 1797]this afternoon. This is not an open Business Question session.
I am asking my right hon. Friend why he has omitted in this statement to carry out the promise frequently given in the House to introduce a motion in this Session for the better control of EEC legislation.
I certainly did give an undertaking to the House in the debate we had in November of last year that I believed we would have a debate on the subject before we came to the recess. I must ask my right hon. Friend and the House to release me from that undertaking because I fear that I am not able to fulfil it. There are many representations which I have received from different parts of the House—from many of my hon. Friends and from the representatives of the Scrutiny Committee—to the effect that we should have further consultations before we proceed along those lines. I hope that the House will be willing to accept that.
Several Hon. Member
Order. I propose to call two more hon. Members from each side of the House.
Dealing with the private business for Tuesday, may I ask whether the Leader of the House agrees that it would be a total disaster if these Bills were to fail on a technicality rather than be allowed to be debated on their merits? Will the right hon. Gentleman do his best to see that these Private Bills are enabled to be carried through to the next Session since a great deal of ratepayers' money has already been spent on their presentation?
I agree that those are some of the considerations which the House will wish to take into account, although I hope that we shall be able to transact that business speedily so that the House can proceed with other business.
Mr. Arthur Lewis
Before we reach the Scottish business which the Lord President has announced for Monday, may I ask my right hon. Friend to have a word with the Secretary of State for Transport and ask him to stop deliberately evading giving an answer to questions [column 1798]when the information is freely available? Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Secretary of State for Transport is covering up the maladministration and neglect of himself, his Ministers and his civil servants over the question of the conveyance of dangerous substances on the roads? Is the Leader of the House aware that this has happened on the very day when there was another accident? Perhaps my right hon. Friend will have a word with the Prime Minister, who has all of the details, and ask him to get Ministers to do the job for which they are paid.
I cannot accept what my hon. Friend says in his charges against my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. I have no doubt that these matters can be raised in the discussions that take place on Monday.
Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg
Does the Lord President realise that this question of the scrutiny of EEC matters is not a private issue between him and his right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay)? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he gave his undertaking to the House? The Prime Minister gave the House a false answer—in ignorance I am sure—saying that everything was satisfactory. It is not. It was not. I believe that the House must demand that the Lord President accepts his responsibility as Leader of the House and finds time before Wednesday for such a debate, to carry out his honourable undertaking. Otherwise we shall have to draw conclusions.
The hon. Gentleman is misconstruing what was said by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister a few minutes ago. He referred to the statement that I had made in the House in August 1976 and he said that we had faithfully carried out what we said then. That is the case. When I referred earlier to this matter I was not in any sense suggesting that it was a private matter between myself and my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay). Indeed, I said the exact opposite. I asked the House to release me from the undertaking that I had given and I indicated that I had received representations from different sides of the House, from many of my hon. Friends, and also from [column 1799]representatives of the Scrutiny Committee. There was certainly no question of any private arrangement which I was making. I was telling the House what I believed the situation to be.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask for your guidance? How can the House make the Leader of the House carry out his word, given to the House?
That is not a matter for me.
The Leader of the House has announced Scottish legislation for Monday. Perhaps he would also use Monday to make a statement to the House about the events of last night. My right hon. Friend will be aware that a wrecking amendment—wrecking in terms of the future operation of the Assembly—was passed last night by an unholy combination of official Opposition Tories and Scottish National Party Tories, who voted against the Government out of revenge. Is there any means whereby my right hon. Friend can make a statement next week to signify the Government's intention to unscramble this unsavoury business?
I doubt whether such a statement could be made in connection with the Scottish business which is to be dealt with on Monday. However, I agree with my hon. Friend that the clause which was passed last night is a constitutional imbecility. I would have thought that all those who joined together to force it through the House, including the other place who gave us that advice originally, should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I believe that there is great concern on both sides of the House over the statement which the Lord President has just made about his inability to fulfil a promise to the House to let us know the Government's proposals for increasing the control of this Parliament over EEC legislation. May I press my right hon. Friend, through you, to give us some indication about when he intends to make a statement to the House? Or are we now to accept that there is to be no such statement within the lifetime of this Parliament?[column 1800]
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Leader of the House has invited the House to relieve him of his obligation to fulfil his undertaking given as long ago as 28th November. May we have your guidance about what procedure the House ought to follow to decide whether to accede to the right hon. Gentleman's request to relieve him of that obligation?
I have been asked many difficult questions in my time, but I am afraid that I do not know the answer to that one.
Sir David Renton
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Next week we shall be discussing the dates of the Summer Recess. Will it be in order during that discussion to raise this matter with the Lord President?
Before calling the Lord President may I say that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who came to this House on the same day as I did, has announced that at the end of this Parliament he will leave us. His contribution just now was a farewell gift. That debate will give the opportunity to raise this matter with the Lord President, and I am deeply grateful to him for pointing it out.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will it be possible for the Lord President to put down a motion, which we can debate and divide upon, deciding whether the House will release him from his undertaking?
On a different point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will remember that some time ago a number of hon. Members were considerably embarrassed by their names appearing on a motion on the Order Paper, the substance of which they did not support. A number of us have looked at Early-Day Motion no. 583, and we cannot believe our eyes when we see the names attached to that motion. Can it really be that the hon. Members for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley), Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) and Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) are against personal abuse? Will you run a check to see whether a mistake has been made in this motion so that embarrassment can be avoided? [column 1801]
[That this House regrets that the Prime Minister chose to launch a personal attack on the Leader of the Opposition; and hopes that he will not conduct his election campaign at this level.]