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Business Of The House

Volume 932: debated on Thursday 19 May 1977

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

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state the business for next week?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Michael Foot)

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

MONDAY 23RD MAY—Debate on the Report of the Annan Committee on The Future of Broadcasting, Command No. 6753.

Motion on the code of practice on disclosure of information to trade unions for collective bargaining purposes.

TUESDAY 24TH MAY—Supply [20th Allotted Day]: A debate on job opportunities for young people.

Motion relating to statements of changes in immigration rules.

WEDNESDAY 25TH MAY—Second Reading of the Patents Bill [Lords].

At 7 o'clock, the Chairman of Ways and Means has announced opposed Private Business for consideration.

THURSDAY 26TH MAY—A debate on airport policy.

Proceedings on the Statute Law (Repeals) Bill [Lords], which is a consolidation measure.

FRIDAY 27TH MAY—Consideration of Private Members' motions.

Afterwards, the House will rise for the Spring Holiday until Monday 13th June.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the Bill on direct elections will be published before the House rises for the Whitsun Recess?

I am afraid that I cannot give the right hon. Lady that confirmation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I can add nothing to what was said on the subject just now by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Does the right hon. Gentleman expect that we shall ever see Hansard again, let alone next week?

I fully acknowledge the serious inconvenience for the House of this matter, but I am very glad that yesterday, thanks to the efforts made to deal with the matter and thanks to my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Civil Service Department, a settlement was reached and that the services will be speedily restored to the House.

If the Bill is not to be published, will the right hon. Gentleman make a statement saying why, because we understood that the Government were using their best endeavours on this matter?

I shall pass the right hon. Lady's request on to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

When may we have a statement about progress towards the independence of Zimbabwe?

There may have to be further statements on that subject in ensuing weeks, but I have no proposal for a statement next week. Of course, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is in touch with the matter all the time.

Does not the Leader of the House agree that it is desirable that when there is a Bill to change the constitution—which is what the devolution Bill does—it should be published before a recess so that all hon. Members can discuss the Bill with their constituents before returning to Westminster to debate it?

I understand the point of the hon. Gentleman's request, but I have nothing to add to my reply to the Leader of the Opposition.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that on Tuesday evening the House was allocated two hours to consider several important EEC energy documents? Is he aware that of that time more than 70 minutes were occupied by speeches from four Front Benchers, and that a large number of Back Bench Members were unable to speak? Will my right hon. Friend look at this whole question of time allocation, and, given the interest in the subject, may we have a debate on energy policy fairly soon?

I indicated on a previous occasion that I though that there should be a further debate on energy at a fairly early stage, but I cannot promise time for it in the near future. As for the time taken up by Front-Bench speakers, I understand that this is an inconvenience for hon. Members, but there is a difficulty generally about the discussion of EEC matters. We are doing our best to meet the requirements of the House on the matter.

Given the incredibly late publication of the direct elections Bill, will the Leader of the House say what progress he expects to make with the Bill, whenever it is published, before the Summer Recess?

I can add nothing to what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I acknowledge the interest of the House in this question. The earlier the Bill is published, the more likely it is to get through, but I can go no further than what I have said.

Will my right hon. Friend give the House an early opportunity to debate the future of the port sugar refining industry in view of the concern being expressed by sugar workers? Is he aware of the current dispute on Merseyside arising out of the present situation? Is it not time that the House discussed this important question?

I acknowledge the importance of the matter, but I cannot promise a debate next week. I know that my hon. Friend and others have been making representations to the Minister concerned about it.

Will the Leader of the House say whether it is administrative and printing difficulties or political difficulties within the Cabinet which are impeding the direct elections Bill?

It would be extraordinary for me to refer to any political difficulties in the Cabinet and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not expect me to do that in anything more than a general sense. It is not a question of printing difficulties either. There are problems to be overcome, and for that reason I have nothing to add to the original answer I gave to the Leader of the Opposition.

The debate on job opportunities for young people next week is to be welcomed. Will my right hon. Friend say whether, in view of the important submissions being made by the Manpower Services Commission, the Government will set out in the debate their intentions for implementing these proposals?

I cannot say whether there will be a full declaration of the Government's policy on this matter. However, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has taken a special continuing interest in the matter and has been eager that the report should be brought forward and debated as soon as possible. He will give his views in the debate. The report is most important and obviously commands great national interest.

May we have next week a ministerial statement on a matter reported in the Press yesterday, namely, the Government's decision to pay considerable sums of money to advertise in the Communist Morning Star?

I do not know whether any question of a public statement on this matter arises. The Government are applying the same rules as they have always applied to the question of advertising in different journals.

Will my right hon. Friend indicate which of next week's items of business he intends to get rid of in order that we may discuss the recent report by the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries on the rail industry?

I acknowledge the ingenuity with which my hon. Friend has put his question. I have considered how we might be able to arrange a debate to suit his purpose, although I cannot promise it for next week. However, given his ingenuity I should not be surprised if he was able to make a speech on the subject in debates on a number of items next week.

In view of the welcome and evident haste with which Lord Ryder is attending to the allegations against the commercial practices of British Leyland, will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he hopes that it will be possible to have a further Government statement on this matter next week?

I do not know whether it would be desirable or necessary to have such a statement. Obviously that would depend upon what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry today and on the discussions which follow. However, if there is a need for such a statement the time will be made available.

Has my right hon. Friend seen Early-Day Motion No. 328, which stands in my name and which is also sponsored by two Conservative Members, one Liberal and one Welsh nationalist concerning the disastrous Grunwick strike? Is he aware that we had a debate on this matter in the House before Christmas, urging observance of the rule of law by the management, and that my right hon. Friends from the Front Bench joined me on the picket line at the factory at 8.30 this morning in an endeavour to get the management to accept the rule of law? Can the House now discuss it from that point of view?

[That this House, believing that conciliation is better than confrontation, urges the management of Grunwick Processing Laboratories Ltd. to accept the rule of law as embodied in the Employment Protection Act 1975 and to implement without further delay Report No. 19 of the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service made under Section 12 of that Act by getting round the table with the trade union concerned, which has already accepted the principle of arbitration.]

I note my hon. Friend's request for a special debate on the matter. He has raised it on a number of occasions, including in the Easter Adjournment debate. I hope that even at this late stage the employers will take account of what has been said in the House and will respect the rule of law in this matter.

Order. I propose to take two more questions from either side. There is a tremendous interest in the major debate today as well as in the two statements which are to come.

Will the Leader of the House say whether there will be an opportunity next week to debate the Government's decision on the next tranche of Government funds to be released to British Leyland?

There will be no such opportunity next week, but obviously there are frequent opportunities to discuss such matters in the House.

May I refer to the question by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell)? Can my right hon. Friend indicate that in future efforts will be made to avoid such stoppages and that, for example, we shall not be faced with the prospect of losing rooms down below through some sort of unofficial organisation taking over? Will he indicate what is happening about that?

My predecessor in office indicated a year or so ago what were the emergency operations that could be used in the House if we were faced with a breakdown in the normal system for providing Hansard and other facilities. The House at that time accepted the necessity for those emergency operations, and what has happened this week has shown that they were required.

None the less, I fully accept what my hon. Friend has said—both in the representations that he has made in this House and in others that he has made to me—that there are many aspects of this matter which require further consideration. Certainly we are prepared to do that. But I believe that the whole House can rejoice, as I certainly rejoice, that the immediate dispute has been brought to an end and that work is being resumed. I am sure that all of us accept that. But I quite agree that there are further matters to be considered to try to ensure that we avoid these difficulties in the future.

In view of the Lord President's personal commitment to uphold the freedom of the Press, may we expect next week a statement about the decision of the Trades Union Congress Press office to discontinue giving information to the BBC industrial correspondent, Mr. John Hosken, following his resignation from the National Union of Journalists?

That is not a matter of Government responsibility. In view of the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question to me personally, as one who was responsible for the passage through the House of Commons of the legislation affecting these matters I must tell him that we did not introduce legislation which favoured or disfavoured the closed shop in journalism or anywhere else. What we did in this matter was what we had promised—to restore legislation affecting this question as it had existed prior to 1971.

My right hon. Friend will recall that at the time of the BP bribery payments in Italy I was, unfortunately, unable—and I had no support from the Conservative Party—to convince him of the need for time to debate this issue. Now that such allegations are raised again in relation to another matter, could my right hon. Friend assure the House that when inquiries have been completed the House will be given an opportunity to debate the central issues involved?

My hon. Friend has perfectly properly raised this matter on a previous occasion. It was from this side of the House that pressure came for a debate on that matter and my hon. Friend did not at that time have any assistance from hon. Members opposite. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry has indicated the Government's absolute opposition to any form of corruption.