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Business Of The House

Volume 887: debated on Thursday 6 March 1975

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May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business for next week, please?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Edward Short)

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY 10TH MARCH—Remaining stages of the Finance Bill [4th ALLOTTED DAY].

TUESDAY 11TH MARCH—Debate on the White Paper on the Referendum on United Kingdom Membership of the European Community, Command No. 5925, when the rule will be suspended for two hours.

Consideration of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Bill [Lords,] and Supply Powers Bill [Lords,] and the Statute Law (Repeals) Bill [Lords,] which are consolidation measures.

WEDNESDAY 12TH MARCH—Remaining stages of the Prices Bill.

Consideration of Lords amendments to the Social Security Benefits Bill.

Remaining stages of the Export Guarantees Amendment Bill.

Motion on the Calf Subsidies (United Kingdom) (Variation) Scheme.

Motion on the EEC Document on the European Monetary Co-operation Fund (R/3594/74).

THURSDAY 13TH MARCH—Supply [12TH ALLOTTED DAY]: The Question will be put on all outstanding Supplementary Estimates.

There will be a debate on Small Businesses and the Self-Employed, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

At seven o'clock the Chairman of Ways and Means has named Opposed Private Business for consideration.

Motions on Northern Ireland Orders on appropriation, selective employment premium and community relations.

FRIDAY 14TH MARCH—Private Members' motions.

MONDAY 17TH MARCH—Proceedings on the Consolidated Fund (No. 3) Bill.

The House will wish to know that, subject to progress of business, it is hoped to propose that the House should rise for the Easter Adjournment on Thursday 27th March until Monday 7th April.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what the motion will be for the referendum debate and, in the event of a referendum being held, whether he intends to enable hon. Members to take part in the campaign by having a short recess in the final stages? Second, if he cannot tell us the date of the Budget, can he say whether there will be a debate on public expenditure or the economy before the House rises for Easter.

I am proposing that the referendum debate should arise on the motion for the Adjournment of the House. I am open to the views of hon. Members about whether there should be a short recess for the referendum period. I would like to hear hon. Members' views on that, although I have no doubt what their views will be. As I said last week, the Budget will be after Easter. I have certainly promised a debate on public expenditure at some time. I cannot say when it is likely to be.

While we can all appreciate the extreme pressure upon the time of the House, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will be able to find time for an urgent debate on the textile industry because the crisis within that industry is growing daily? If he cannot find the time, can he make overtures to the Conservative Party and suggest that it uses one of its Supply Days to discuss this important matter? Secondly, will he ask his right hon. Friends to take some action within the EEC regulations which permit corrective action to be taken to deal with excessive imports of textiles?

I will certainly pass my hon. Friend's final comments on to my right hon. Friends concerned. I have told them of other points raised over the past few weeks, and the Prime Minister answered a Question on this subject a few days ago. I cannot give any time for this subject before Easter. I have just announced the Consolidated Fund Bill debate for Monday week. That will be an appropriate occasion for a short debate on this matter.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is considerable anxiety in Scotland over the future control of Scottish industry? Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Minister concerned to make a statement about the relationship between the National Enterprise Board and the Scottish Development Agency?

I will pass that on to my right hon. Friend. I imagine that there will be opportunities to debate it when the Bill comes before the House in the near future.

Does my hon. Friend recall that last Thursday, when I asked him when we could have a debate on the decision of the European Commission to support our negotiating proposal for a regional aid policy he replied "I hope before long"? Has he anything to add to that?

Not next week, Sir. I hope that it will be possible to arrange a debate on this subject before Easter.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the critical situation which has arisen at Christie Hospital in Manchester which is reported in the Daily Telegraph today? Is he further aware that this has become increasingly urgent because of the desire of NUPE to decide which cases should be admitted to this premier cancer hospital is causing outrage? Is he aware that last Saturday two cases for investigation of malignant cancer were refused admittance and were admitted only through the assistance of the nursing staff? Will he find time for a debate on this matter?

I cannot find time to debate it but I will certainly pass it on to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. The debate on Monday week would be an appropriate occasion to raise this subject.

Can my right hon. Friend assure us that the debate on public expenditure will at least come before the Budget and that in it hon. Members will be able to cover economic policy and the social contract?

It will be a debate on the White Paper, but I shall certainly bear in mind what my right hon. Friend has said.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when we might have the sitting of the Northern Ireland Grand Committee, for which we asked as far back as 13th February, to discuss the IRA cease-fire and the consequential arrangements? Is there any valid reason for delay now that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has said that he has no objections?

I know of no reason for delay, but I will certainly look into the matter and communicate with the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends.

After these months of failed promises and delay, what are the prospects for public lending rights legislation?

That Bill will be introduced in the very near future. There is a great pressure on the parliamentary programme, but I will do my best to have it brought in as quickly as possible.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware of the extremely serious situation which has arisen throughout the whole of the National Health Service? Does he not know that, because of the intransigence of the Secretary of State for Social Services, there is now a complete breakdown in negotiations between herself and the surgeons? Would he accept that, however experienced a hospital porter is with a trolley, he cannot make diagnoses or assessment decisions on patients? Will the right hon. Gentleman not understand that both the present and the future of the NHS are now at stake and permit a proper debate—not one on the Consolidated Fund Bill—on this vital matter?

Intransigence is not confined to one quarter, I am afraid. It is found in many quarters in this matter, but it does not help in this dispute to overstate the case, as, with respect, the hon. Lady did. I shall certainly hear her points in mind and pass them on to my right hon. Friend, but this would be an appropriate subject for a Supply Day.

When can we expect a debate on the strategic plan for the North-West—a debate which is long overdue. If we could have a debate on that, it could be tied in with a debate on the position of the textile industry, which has reached crisis proportions. Hon. Members on these benches will soon be taking action.

I promised the House two or three weeks ago that I would bring forward a proposal for debating regional matters. I hope to do that in the near future. It will be a novel proposal, but I hope that it will satisfy the demands made from both sides of the House for regional debates. I realise that this is an important and valid demand.

When can the House expect to debate the Bullock Report on the use of English? This is a matter to which we on this side attach the greatest importance.

We also attach a great deal of importance to that report, which most of us think is excellent, but I cannot give any time in the near future. It is rather early yet. It is a long report, and I am sure that many hon. Members have not yet got to the end of it.

My right hon. Friend has previously promised a debate on foreign affairs before Easter. Can he reiterate that promise today? What opportunity will be given for hon. Members to debate the affairs of the rest of the world, apart from Europe? There are important questions for discussion of which this House ought to be able to set aside time?

There is a real need for this. I promised, and I reaffirm, that there will be a wide-ranging debate on foreign affairs before Easter.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there has not been a debate on the Scottish economy since his party came into office? He will recall that it was his intention to hold one in the autumn. No doubt he would agree, since seeing the Scottish TUC, on the urgency of this matter. Does he not agree that, in view of the rise in unemployment and short-time working in Scotland, it is highly desirable to have such a debate as soon as possible?

This would be an appropriate subject to be debated in the Scottish Grand Committee, of course.

In the interests of all shades of opinion, not least his own, would my right hon. Friend not agree that there is an overwhelming case for a detailed and coherent White Paper on devolution? What is the trouble in announcing when it will be?

I have explained to my hon. Friend on many occasions, over and over again, that I will certainly look at this. If the preparation of a White Paper would not unduly delay preparation of the devolution Bill, I would certainly consider producing one.

When there is a debate on regional matters, may we be assured that it will include the region of Kent? We have less expenditure on our hospitals, less expenditure on our Channel Tunnel, less expenditure on our schools and less help for our agriculture and our special industry of horticulture than any other region.

Certainly the proposal that I hope to bring before the House will enable all the English regions to debate their affairs. We are at a disadvantage compared with Scotland and Wales, which have Grand Committees. I hope that we can overcome that.

Will my right hon. Friend set aside time for a debate on the situation at the Imperial Typewriter Company in the cities of Leicester and Hull, and particularly on the disgraceful refusal of Litton Industries even to pay the redundant men the money—the pay, the wages, the holiday pay—that they have earned so far?

I am afraid that I cannot promise any time before Easter, but certainly a debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill would be appropriate for this. If notice were given, a Minister would be present to reply.

Would the right hon. Gentleman further consider the plea of the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond)? The crisis facing the textile industry is severe. He found time, exceptionally, for a debate on Norton Villiers Triumph, where just a few thousand jobs were at stake. Would he not find time before Easter—Government time—to debate the textile industry, in which tens of thousands of jobs are at stake?

No, Sir, I cannot find time for a full debate on this matter before Easter. I do not underestimate the position. I have said several times that I realise its importance. On every occasion when these matters have been raised from either side of the House, I have referred them to my two right hon. Friends.

Is my right hon. Friend as aware as I think he is of the concern expressed to me and to him about the length of time that the Boyle Committee is taking to report? It may be that we do not want it at the same time as the Budget, but can he assure us that it will come before some later date in the year?

It will certainly come before some later date in the year. It is a fundamental review of salaries, allowances and pensions, and I am afraid that Lord Boyle will take a few months longer yet on it.

Is the Leader of the House aware that horticulture and the egg production section of agriculture are both in desperate straits, that the Opposition have provided five days of their own time in the last year for discussing agricultural matters, and that in a debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill only the most junior Minister turns up to reply, not the Minister of Agriculture himself? Will he therefore allow Government time to discuss the urgent action which needs to be taken?

I have taken the trouble to check on the arithmetic in the early-day motion on this matter. I have discovered that, if we consider this Sessison, not last year, so far the Opposition have given one day. The other day was in the debate on the Address, which is a Government day—

I am talking about this Session. So far the Opposition have given one of their Supply Days and the Government have given the equivalent of three full days on agriculture, so I think that it is the turn of the Opposition.

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the answers he has just given to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond), my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire) and the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton)? Will he bear in mind that the crisis situation in textiles is now developing and intensifying so rapidly that a debate after Easter will be too late? What we need is not simply a debate but action.

Certainly I realise the importance of this matter. I understand the demand on all sides of the House for a debate upon it, but I am afraid that I cannot give a full day for it. I could, perhaps, consider giving a short time for a debate, but I certainly could not promise a full day because of the congestion of the programme. However, I shall certainly look at the matter.

May I—rather unusually this week—congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his acumen in perceiving that a recess during the campaign on the referendum would be wholly acceptable? We are very glad to know that he is considering it. Second, will he ensure that before we discuss in the House the Bullock Report on the use of English, he will secure its wide circulation in Whitehall? Third, may I say that I also appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman said about the possibility of a debate on the textile industry, a matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton)? This is a matter of very great urgency.