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Business Of The House

Volume 895: debated on Thursday 17 July 1975

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Will the Leader of the House please state the business for next week?

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 21ST JULY—Motion to approve the White Paper "The Attack on Inflation" (Command No. 6151). The Remuneration, Charges and Grants Bill will be relevant.

TUESDAY 22ND JULY—Supply [29th Allotted Day]: The Question will be put on all outstanding Votes.

Conclusion of the debate on Command No. 6151.

Motions on Members' pay and allowances.

WEDNESDAY 23RD JULY—Second Reading of the Remuneration, Charges and Grants Bill.

Consideration of Lords amendments to the Lotteries Bill.

Remaining stages of the Limitation Bill [Lords] and of the Public Service Vehicles (Arrest of Offenders) Bill [Lords].

Motion on the Rate Support Grant (Increase) Order 1975.

THURSDAY 24TH JULY—Remaining stages of the Remuneration, Charges and Grants Bill.

FRIDAY 25TH JULY—Consideration of EEC documents on common agricultural policy (R/635/75) and on fisheries policy (R/2713/73 and R/2193/74).

MONDAY 28TH JULY—Progress on the Report stage of the Community Land Bill.

Since there will be many hon. Members who will wish to take part in the debate on the White Paper, may we have a suspension of the rule on Monday? Secondly, as the Prime Minister answers question on the White Paper by referring to a Bill containing reserve powers, may we have sight of that Bill before we come to debate the White Paper? Thirdly, is it necessary to take the remaining stages of the Remuneration, Charges and Grants Bill the day after the Second Reading? If so, shall we be able to table manuscript amendments on Report?

In answer to the first part of the question, if it is the wish of the Conservative Party and of the House generally, I should be glad to arrange for a suspension of the rule on Monday. The Bill contains reserve powers and the White Paper refers to the Bill as drafted. We hope that it will not be necessary to introduce it, but if it is necessary it will be introduced—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I repeat what I have just said—namely, that if it be- comes necessary, and I hope that it will not, the Bill will be introduced. In reply to the final point put to me by the right hon. Lady, the remaining stages are being taken on one day. I know that this is asking a great deal of the House, but I hope that this will be done in view of the importance and urgency of the measure.

I am not asking the right hon. Gentleman to introduce the Bill but may we not see a draft of the Bill, which, of course, will be relevant to the debate?

I do not think any useful purpose will be served by that course because the Bill is not part of the White Paper or of the anti-inflation plan. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes it is."] There is no intention of putting the Bill through the House at present, and I hope that it will not happen.

Having found time for an important debate on the Boyle Committee's Report next week, could my right hon. Friend turn his attention to whether it would be possible for the Government to squeeze a little more time out of their parliamentary timetable to debate the Finer Report on one-parent families?

Certainly I promise a debate in this Session, but I am afraid that it cannot be before the Summer Recess. There is no hope whatever of such a debate before we rise because of the additional time needed for the anti-inflationary measures. [An HON. MEMBER: "Shame."] We have been pushed into this situation because of requests for more time for other matters and we have given more time. I do not complain about the situation, but it has complicated the remaining few weeks before the Summer Recess.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is an ever-lengthening queue of Select Committee reports which physically cannot be printed? Will he please see whether he can make a statement next week, because in these modern times it surely should be possible to arrange the printing of a Select Committee report within seven days as most companies are able to manage?

I know that this matter is causing some concern among hon. Members, and I shall look at the matter to see what can be done. If I feel that I can say anything useful to the House, I shall do so.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman realises that his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is reserving the possibility of reserve powers being prepared by the Government. Since this represents a major departure, will he satisfy our curiosity by letting us see what those powers are? Is he aware that many of us feel those powers to he highly relevant to the view we shall take on the White Paper and to the Bill which we shall be asked to debate next week?

Secondly, on the basis that undertakings given in both Houses were genuine, may we know when a Select Committee in this House or a joint committee of both Houses will be set up to determine the apportionment of numbers between all parties and the method of selection of representatives of the parties in this House and in another place in the European Parliament, since many of us believe that the two-party "carve-up" is not the most effective system?

I think the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) and the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition know what the Bill contains [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] This has been made absolutely clear. We hope that the Bill will never be necessary. But if it is necessary at any time, it will be published.

With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's second point, discussions will take place in the near future through the usual channels, and I hope that before long a Select Committee will be set up.

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to Early-Day Motion 551, which is widely supported in all parts of the House and which calls for the setting up of a Select Committee on Cyprus? Since this is a matter on which there may be controversy, will he find time to consider this matter before we rise?

[ That a Select Committee be appointed to visit Cyprus on a fact-finding mission and for the purpose of examining what steps the United Kingdom may reasonably take to comply with their responsibilities imposed under the Treaty of Guarantee (Command Paper 1253):

That the Select Committee shall consist of Ten Members:

That the Select Committee shall report upon their findings to this House and pay particular regard to the plight of British residents in Cyprus and any steps recommended to assist in this regard.]

I know that my hon. Friend is concerned about this matter, and he and I discussed it recently. I shall discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on his return from Poland and see whether anything can be done before the recess.

Since the Prime Minister has referred more than once to the draft Bill with back-up powers as being printed, is there not an obligation not merely of honesty but also of order in the House that when a State paper is referred to more than once it has to be tabled?

Will the Leader of the House tell the House when the motion on Members' pay will be tabled, so that it is open for amendment?

I am not sure, but I hope that it may be tabled tomorrow, or certainly by Monday at the latest. I hope that it will be tomorrow.

Is the Leader of the House aware that the Remuneration, Charges and Grants Bill has clauses which separately involve the Treasury, the Scottish Office, the Department of the Environment and the Department of Employment? In these circumstances, is it not wholly unacceptable that the House should be expected to give it a Committee and Report stage in one day, particularly in the absence of any printing of the back-up Bill to which it refers? Will he, in those circumstances, therefore, consult his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), and others, as this is a subject which cannot be neatly confined to the usual channels?

It is usual—and there are many precedents—for Bills of this importance and urgency to pass all three stages in one day. But in this case we have this week, in deciding the business, agreed to a request from the Opposition for more time. We had intended to compress it into an even shorter time. We had looked at the precedents and were hoping to do that. However, the Opposition asked for more time and we readily agreed to more time. As I said, I do not complain about that at all.

Will my right hon. Friend remind the Prime Minister that his statement on 23rd May with regard to textiles referred to the urgency of this matter but that we are still awaiting the outcome of the talks which, according to that statement, were to be undertaken? Will he ask the Prime Minister whether he will ensure that a statement is made next week at the latest, as mills are still closing and the position, while not deteriorating, is certainly as bad as it was on 23rd May?

I said last week that I hoped that the statement would be made this week. I regret very much indeed that it has not been made before today, but I will see that it is made within the next two or three days.

Has the Leader of the House seen Early Day Motion No. 588, which refers to the large salary increases, of up to £70 a week, awarded to senior local government officials, who have already received large increases during the past year? As the Secretary of State for Scotland has washed his hands of any responsibility for this large increase in public expenditure, will the Lord President arrange for a more responsible Minister to make a statement about it to the House next week?

[ That this House calls upon the Government to ensure a fairer implementation of its counter-inflation policy following the recommended salary increases for senior local government officials in Scotland who have already received major increases within the past year due to upgrading as a consequence of local government reform, a negotiated national award and, in the Lothian Region, an additional £1,000 per annum to maintain differentials.]

I understand that there were some replies on this yesterday, but I am told that the awards are within the guidelines, that they were agreed through the National Joint Council, and that they amount on average to 22 per cent., the same as in England. They became effective, I am told, on 1st July.

Will the Lord President agree that there will be dissatisfaction in all parts of the House that he has allocated the subject of the stock-taking document on the common agricultural policy for next Friday, which is not a particularly convenient time for Members with constituencies outside London or with agricultural interests? Will he consider whether a more convenient time for that document can be found?

It is difficult at this time of the year, and I wanted to give rather more time than the normal 1½ hours late at night. The whole day on Friday is being devoted to these documents. I should have thought that that would be welcomed by those Members who are interested in the subject.

As the White Paper specifically says that the draft back-up Bill has been prepared, and as the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Party have both requested on behalf of this side of the House that we shall have a sight of it, why is it that the Leader of the House does not want us to have a sight of it?

It is not that I do not want the House to have a sight of it. As I said, we hope that the Bill will never be necessary. It is a Government Bill which has not yet been introduced. We have been honest with the House and the country and told the country that this Bill has been prepared. I shall certainly convey to the Prime Minister what the right hon. Lady said and I shall pass on her request.

Has the Leader of the House seen Early Day Motion No. 589 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley)? Will he ensure that there will be an opportunity to debate the Daniel Committee Report on the "Working of the Water Act 1973", if not on the Floor of the House then in a specifically convened session of the Welsh Grand Committee, as soon as that report is published?

[ That this House expresses its concern over the continued delay in the publication of the Daniel Committee Report on the Working of the Water Act 1973 in Wales; and calls on the Secretary of State for Wales to facilitate its publication without further procrastination.]

I know how interested Welsh Members on both sides of the House are in this matter. I shall bear in mind what the lion Member said and see what I can do.

Will the Lord President reflect on his earlier decision and consult Treasury Ministers about the desirability of providing a proper financial appendix to his White Paper on devolution? Will he say whether officials responsible for the new regions—whose salary increases have raised a few eyebrows—are to be paid more or less than those responsible for the Assembly? Will he not agree that these are questions that have to be considered?

The hon. Gentleman, I believe, has a Question down today on this or a related matter, but it is much too early yet to talk about salary structures or staff, the size of the staff or anything of that kind for the Scottish Assembly.

Further to the answer which the Leader of the House gave earlier about the setting up of the Select Committee on Cyprus, will the Leader of the House, before setting up the Select Committee, be prepared to have a meeting with those responsible for the all-party motion in regard to the right terms of reference to be given to such a Select Committee, bearing in mind the delicate situation in Cyprus and the importance of keeping this matter on an all-party basis in the best interests of the country?

I am prepared to talk to any hon. Members on this matter. The essential point is to get a group together to go to Cyprus to investigate the position. I shall bear in mind what the hon. and learned Gentleman and my hon. Friend have said today.

Will my right hon. Friend give the House some indication when his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry will make a further statement on the HS146, as the longer this is delayed the more costly it will be when it is taken up and the less chance there will be of getting the fine design team together again?

I shall pass on to my right hon. Friend what my hon. Friend has said. Perhaps he will contact my hon. Friend.

Since the Lord President has stated that hon. Members on this side of the House know what is in the unpublished Bill, which he refuses to publish, will he take it from me that at least some of us do not know what is in the Bill? Will he explain to me how he presumes that we know what is in an unpublished Bill? Is it the Governments intention to leak it to the Press as they did in the case of Member's pay?

I completely refute the hon. Gentleman's last few words. I explained yesterday that there was clear evidence of a leak on the question of Members' pay and we are investigating it. The details of Members' pay were certainly not given to the Press by the Government.

Concerning the hon. Member's first question, I said a minute ago that I shall pass on the right hon. Lady's request to the Prime Minister on this matter. If the hon. Gentleman will read the statement on inflation, he will see that the contents of this Bill were explained.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that acceptance of the White Paper seems to imply acceptance also of this unpublished Bill and that many of us on the Government side of the House are completely dissatisfied with the suggestion that we should accept something unseen? Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore mention our request when he speaks to his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and will he also mention that it may be that we shall be called back during the recess and that it will be completely unsatisfactory for us to rush back to consider hastily or pass a Bill which we have not seen, when apparently the Bill is already in draft and could be placed before the House?

Neither the Prime Minister nor I have any doubts whatever about my hon. Friend's views.

May I go back to the point about the unpublished Bill? While the whole House is grateful to the Lord President for the move he made just now in saying that he would consult his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, what is very important is that he should make a statement to the House, perhaps tomorrow, so that the House knows where it stands in advance of the very important debate on which it is to embark on Monday. Will not the right hon. Gentleman realise that there is a very strong demand on both sides of the House for this to be done and that we find it very difficult to accept his rather novel doctrine that until a document is tabled it is not a State document?

Concerning the very important Remuneration Charges and Grants Bill, will not the right hon. Gentleman realise that this is a measure which introduces some very novel and rather dangerous themes, and that it would be as well if the public, as well as Members of Parliament, had good time in which to digest what is in the measure and to react to it before it has passed all its stages? Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that, although the Government have made a move in our direction, they would not be unduly generous if they were at this stage to withdraw one of the time-consuming and highly controversial measures which they are pushing through an already congested Parliament?

On the first point, I have said, as the right hon. Gentleman acknowledged, that I shall pass on this request to the Prime Minister. I cannot give any undertaking to make a statement about it tomorrow.

I shall bear in mind what the right hon. Gentleman said on the second matter.


On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May we have your ruling on a matter arising from the unpublished Bill which we have just been discussing? When a document of that importance and substance is referred to not merely in passing but as a matter of argument, is it not customary for it to be laid before the House?

I think that the rule is that the document has to be quoted from before it has to be laid. But I shall consider the matter and, if I wish to depart from that preliminary view, I shall let the hon. Gentleman know.