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Business Of The House

Volume 977: debated on Thursday 31 January 1980

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 Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY 4 FEBRUARY—Debate on Welsh affairs, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Motion on the European Community documents R/3289/78 and 9056 /79 on construction products.

TUESDAY 5 FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Bill.

Motions on European Community documents 9625/79, 8587/79 and 5331/79 concerning the general energy programme, nuclear power stations finances, and the plutonium safety cycle.

WEDNESDAY 6 FEBRUARY and THURSDAY 7 FEBRUARY—Remaining stages of the Industry Bill.

FRIDAY 8 FEBRUARY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY 11 FEBRUARY—Remaining stages of the British Aerospace Bill.

(European Community Documents
The relevant reports are as follows:
Construction products: 20th Report of Session 1978–79 and 11th Report of Session 1979–80
H/C Paper 10-xx 1978–79 para. 3 H/C Paper 195-xi 1979–80 para. 2.
Energy: 8th Report and 9th Report 1979–80 H/C Paper 159-viii 1979–80 para. 4 H/C Paper 159-ix 1979–80 paras. 1 and 4.)

On the subject of Monday's debate on Welsh affairs, we expect the Secretary of State for Wales to open the debate, but will the Leader of the House ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry to attend the debate and account for his stewardship in view of the disastrous consequences that have arisen as a result of the Government's industrial policy in South Wales?

It is a debate on Welsh affairs and it would be normal for Welsh Ministers to open and close the debate. However, I shall certainly pass on the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry.

While I accept fully that, in the normal event, we would expect Welsh Ministers to take part in the debate, the situation in South Wales is not normal. There is growing tension because of the handling of the steel and coal industries. The Government must take steps to try to defuse it. I urge strongly that the Secretary of State for Industry should be here.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there will be relief—I will not say satisfaction—in Wales to hear that there is to be a debate on Monday, because, among other things, it may give the opportunity to Opposition Members to urge caution on the Wales TUC in expressing its anxiety over a worrying situation and actions that are calculated to make that situation a great deal worse.

I am glad to have been able to announce the debate, not only because of the importance of Wales itself but because I recall that on the last occasion when we had a debate on Wales on 23 May the debate started late. Therefore, discussion was curtailed. I am sure that all expressions of opinion will be heard in the debate. I am sure that we all want a peaceful settlement to the steel dispute.

In view of the critical unemployment situation in Scotland, will the Leader of the House tell us when there will be a debate on the Scottish economy?

I am afraid that I laid myself open to that question when I announced the debate on Wales. I appreciate the point. There has not been a full debate on Scottish affairs for some time. Certainly, I shall look into the matter. It is a subject that might be suitable for a Supply day.

Is it not becoming urgent for the House to have a debate on the fishing industry?

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. We should have a debate on the fishing industry, and I hope that there will be one before the next meeting of the Fisheries Council.

Will my right hon. Friend ask an appropriate Minister to make a statement on the outcome of the discussion between the Government and the various Olympic Games organising bodies? In that way, the House will know what conclusion has been reached. Will my right hon. Friend also consider giving the House an opportunity to express itself on the matter, as has already taken place in the United States' Congress?

I shall consider those two important suggestions. Of course, the Cabinet has not yet heard the result of those conversations. We hope that it is one that will be in accordance with the national interest.

During the course of next week's business, will the Leader of the House consider apologising to the House for dishonouring a pledge that he made to the House on 13 July last year, when, in a reply to the Chairman of the Select Committee on European legislation, he said:

"Ministers will not give agreement to any legislative proposal recommended by the Scrutiny Committee for further consideration by the House, before the House has given it that consideration".—[Official Report, 13 July 1979: Vol. 970, c. 302.]
Is not the right hon Gentleman aware that on Tuesday the Government concluded an agreement on total allowable catches for United Kingdom fishermen? That agreement violated the principle that he laid down. Therefore, will he personally apologise to the House or, alternatively, ask his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, who concluded that agreement before consultation and discussion, to make a personal statement to the House of Commons?

The right hon. Gentleman has escalated the issue. [Interruption.] Of course, I am well aware of the answer that I gave in written form to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Silverman) in July. I stated clearly that Ministers would not agree to any proposals that had not been before the Scrutiny Committee. However, there was a proviso to that stating that that situation would apply unless there were special circumstances, with which the Minister was satisfied for good reasons. If the Minister had to reach an agreement in such circumstances, I said that he would come to the House and explain at the earliest opportunity. That is exactly what happened.

In the discussions at the Fisheries Council a proposal was put forward—not a highly controversial one—which it was in the interests of the country to accept. My right hon. Friend accepted it. It was not the document that has been before the Scrutiny Committee. Yesterday, he made a statement explaining his agreement. In fairness to the right hon. Gentleman, I am prepared to accept that my right hon. Friend did not spell out the position as fully as I am spelling it out now, but in fact the full spirit of what I said was complied with and, as I said in answer to the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), there will be a full debate on fisheries policy. That will provide an opportunity for a further statement to be made by my right hon. Friend.

I am sorry, but I cannot allow the Leader of the House to wriggle off the hook as easily as that. In his reply he made no mention of exceptional circumstances. If a Minister circumvents the agreement that was made with the Chairman of the Select Committee on European legislation it is clearly stated that he should take the first opportunity to explain the reasons for that to the House. He has not done so, and we await that explanation.

In my answer, I said that the procedure of going to the Scrutiny Committee should be followed unless the Minister concerned was satisfied that there were good reasons for not doing so, which he would explain to the House at the earliest opportunity. The Minister was satisfied that there were good reasons, and he made a statement to the House yesterday. In concession to the right hon. Gentleman—

I am not being patronising; I am trying to be reasonable about the matter. The Minister did not spell out the position as I am spelling it out now, but he complied with the answer that I gave.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of us who have watched the progress of the Industry Bill may want to put down amendments to facilitate hiving-off the MG factory and others? The amended Bill is still not in the Vote Office. Will my right hon. Friend do his best to ensure that the amended Bill is put in the Vote Office as soon as possible, as the Committee stage finished on 17 January?

Of course I shall look into the matter. I shall ensure that the amended Bill is made available at the earliest opportunity.

Will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State for Social Services to make an early statement? Will he ask his right hon. Friend to explain why the Government have refused to publish the annual guide to benefits and family pensions that is normally available to rights' workers, citizens' advice bureaux and hon. Members? That guide has been replaced with a shoddy leaflet that is no good at all to those who wish to claim benefits. It is one thing to take away or reduce benefits; it is another to prevent people from finding out their rights.

I shall ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to review the position.

Will my right hon. Friend make a statement early next week to the effect that Hansard will resume being a daily publication?

The ultimate responsibility for Hansard is not mine. It rests with Mr. Speaker, and he is advised by the Commission. However, we are looking into that question. As Leader of the House, I shall of course do all I can to assist. However, there are difficult problems, and I shall consult Mr. Speaker about them.

With reference to Tuesday's debate on nuclear energy, is it not ironic that we are to have an opportunity to debate EEC documents before we have had an opportunity to debate the Government's extraordinary and ambitious programme on nuclear power? Nuclear power provides the Government's largest investment programme; possibly the only large investment programme left. Will the right hon. Gentleman advise his colleagues that some of us may wish to make glancing references to that programme during the debate, but that we shall also seek a full debate before the Government make a financial commitment of their own?

Yes. There is substance in the point about having a debate on the Government's programmes for energy and nuclear power at some time. I shall try to fit that debate in when I can. However, we have a heavy programme for the next few weeks.

As for the documents, they are more than routine. They have far-reaching implications for nuclear energy in the Community. It is right that the House should have an opportunity to debate them.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that since the publication of the extremely important ACORD report on technological changes in the United Kingdom, early-day motion 345 has been signed by Members from all parties asking yet again for an early debate on microelectronics?

That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to provide time for an early debate on the progress and widening application of micro-computer technology in view of its likely impact on industry and society and the investment being made from all sources in the production of silicon chips.

Since, metaphorically and appropriately, the House has come to him on bended knees, will my right hon. Friend assure us that we will not have to adopt a more belligerent posture?

I am aware of the importance of the subject and of my hon. Friend's expert knowledge. However, I am in difficulty. I have not got time for that debate in the next few weeks, but I agree that the subject must be debated at same stage.

Will the Leader of the House intervene on the question of the constitutional propriety of the decision of his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General to prevent the Director of Public Prosecutions from appearing before the Select Committee on home affairs in order to assist its investigation into deaths in police custody—

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. It is quite out of order to refer to the activities of a Select Committee of the House before it has reported to the House. Such a report has not yet been made.

May I complete my question by asking the Leader of the House to take account of the fact that the DPP has already dilated at length on his views on prosecution policy in a Sunday newspaper? Will he ensure that full evidence—including the presence of the DPP—will be assured to the Committee?

You have, Mr. Speaker, deprived me of the first part of my answer. I shall have to make do with the second part. When the Select Committees were set up it was agreed by the House that the Law Officers' Department should not be subject to those Select Committees. The issue concerns the Department of the Attorney-General, and I shall refer the matter to him for further discussion.

The new immigration rules will be laid before the House as soon as may be.

When is the debate on the renewal of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act likely to come up?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the House of Commons is experiencing great difficulty in finding Committee Rooms? We know, of course, that the number of Committees has increased. Indeed, we are bursting at the seams in many directions. Secretaries cannot get places, nor can some hon. Members. Has my right hon. Friend noticed the new building going on in Richmond Terrace? I think that it was started by the previous Government. Will he assure the House that if development of the Bridge Street site cannot be started soon we can have the use of the Richmond Terrace building when it is completed?

We are looking into the whole question of accommodation in the House. I am in constant consultation, through the usual channels, to discover how we can best use the available accommodation. The general issue is of concern to the Services Committee. I have noticed with great interest what has been going on in Richmond Terrace. It is being refurbished, and is not a new building. I thought it might be a suitable building for the Office of Arts and Libraries. However, I am afraid that that is impossible. The building is too far from the House to be of any use. Prompted by my hon. Friend, I shall investigate further to see what plans have been laid for that most interesting and beautiful building.

Following the admission by the Leader of the House that Scottish affairs have not been adequately debated this Session, and as the overwhelming majority of Scottish Members are implacably opposed to the Government's programme for Scotland, will the Leader of the House take urgent steps to activate realistic talks in order to achieve better and more democratic government in Scotland? The Leader of the House should bear in mind that the mandate for a Scottish Assembly was stronger than this Government's mandate to govern the United Kingdom.

On the question of talks on the future government of Scotland we have reached a limited agreement for discussion on the handling of Scottish business with the Opposition. I hope that we can proceed further along those lines. As for the lack of a Scottish debate, I am afraid that the previous Labour Government were much more culpable than the present Government. Apart from the debate on devolution, there has not been a general debate on Scottish affairs since 1976.

Bearing in mind the many requests for debates that have been made, will my right hon. Friend consider the fact that several hon. Members listened to the whole of the statement that was made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on the fisheries agreement? We felt that he had explained the position clearly. It is therefore unnecessary to have another statement, as that would only duplicate the previous one.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his support. I was glad to have an opportunity of explaining—more fully than perhaps was suitable for my right hon. Friend—the procedural position. I hope that I have allayed the wrath of the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason).

On the matter of the reply of the Leader of the House to the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook), in which he indicated general satisfaction that immigration rules would not be laid for some time, is he aware that that answer prolongs the anomaly whereby applications under the present rules are legally accepted until the new rules are laid, although it has been made clear that they will not be considered under the new rules following the dates on which the White Paper was laid last November? Is that not a serious injustice to thousands of people who are affected by those rules? Will he ask his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to reconsider the position?

I shall pass on to my right hon. Friend the anxiety that has been expressed. However, the right hon. Gentleman must not read into my answer things that were not in it. My answer meant what it said. It stands in its own right; not on the interpretation that the right hon. Gentleman has chosen to put upon it.

The House gave leave to introduce a Bill to look annually at our expenditure to the European Community and to decide whether to continue with that expenditure. Bearing in mind that a majority of 123—twice the majority that the Government usually receive for their primary legislation—and 123 more than the Bill that was introduced yesterday, and that we are facing great problems in persuading our European friends of the gravity of our case on the EEC budget, will my right hon. Friend ensure that the House is given a swift opportunity to debate the matter?

There has been a recent general debate on foreign affairs. We have also the advantage of continual statements from my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal. The House has ample opportunity to debate and discuss Community affairs. I do not think that we can reopen the whole question of British membership of the EEC.

Will the Leader of the House tell us when he hopes to arrange a debate—perhaps fairly soon—on the important report of of Sir Monty Finniston on the British engineering profession?

It is an important report, and it may well be relevant to a number of topics that we shall be debating in the near future. I cannot promise a special debate on the subject.

Will my right hon. Friend prove his concern about the crisis in our prisons by promising an early debate on the May report?

I have told the House before that my right hon Friend the Home Secretary is discussing the implications of the report. When those discussions are completed we shall consider the matter again.

In view of his commitment to open government, will the Leader of the House next week persuade the Secretary of State for Social Services to explain to the House why, for the first time in 30 years, there will not be an annual report of his Department or an annual report from the chief medical officer?

I shall pass on that important representation to my right hon. Friend.

In view of the discussions between the usual channels on possible extra financing for Opposition parties in Parliament, will my right hon. Friend ensure that there is a statement next week, or as soon as possible—not a written answer—on the conclusions of those discussions?

It appears that if the Labour Party subscription rises by 150 per cent. to £3, either it will be so rich that it will not need the money or it will find that it has so few members that it hardly justifies any subsidy.

The principal of subsidising the activities of political parties in Parliament—not outside it—has been approved by the House. It is right to review the position in the light of inflation, which has eroded the original grant. The problem may be not the amount of the subsidy but how to spread it among the various Opposition parties if they should multiply in the future

Does the Leader of the House realise that the Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Bill is not one Bill, but three or four? Each of those Bills is highly contentious and fundamental in the changes that they propose, Does the right hon. Gentleman think that one day is sufficient for the Second Reading of that Bill?

It is a most important Bill. It was for some of the reasons that were put forward by the hon. Gentleman that the Bill was reduced in size and reintroduced into the House. Whether it should have one or two days is a matter for discussion through the usual channels. I see from my business statement that one day appears to be sufficient.

Following the Home Secretary's promise earlier today that we shall have a statement on telephone tapping at some time in the future, will the Leader of the House use his influence to incorporate that statement with a debate on the whole issue? The matter has caused much concern, especially in its industrial aspects and the tapping of the Grunwick telephones.

Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange a full debate on the issue so that the demand for an inquiry can be fully canvassed in the House?

I advise the hon. Gentleman to proceed slowly but reasonably on the matter. He has received a promise of a statement. If I were to try to link that statement with a full debate it might delay the statement for a long time.

Let us listen to the statement and to what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has to say, because it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the hon. Gentleman will find that all his anxieties are answered.

Was the Leader of the House not informed by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of the agenda of the Fisheries Council in time for him to consider amending the business of the House to allow for a debate? If he was not so informed, the Minister was clearly in dereliction of his duty to keep his colleagues in the Government informed so that the position could not have arisen.

The whole matter arose at short notice. I have explained the position constitutionally in the House, and the proviso in my answer in July. I am quite satisfied that my right hon. Friend behaved entirely in accordance with the spirit of my remarks.

Will the Leader of the House ensure that there is a statement next week on the steel strike? As Leader of the House, will he press the Secretary of State for Industry to be in the House for the Welsh debate on Monday? There are massive redundancies in the steel industry in Wales that will mean consequential massive redundancies in the coal industry. The whole of the Welsh economy is affected. It would be ridiculous if the Secretary of State for Industry were not present for that debate.

There has been a recent opportunity to debate the state of the steel industry. There will be an opportunity, in the context of the Welsh debate, to debate the position of the steel industry in Wales. I have said that should it be necessary I shall ask the Secretary of State for Industry to make a statement on the steel strike.

It is important to have a general debate on the Welsh economy. I am well aware of the great economic and social problems that are faced by Wales.

Further to the question put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason), is the Leader of the House aware that his right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food yesterday mentioned no exceptional circumstances? Furthermore, he gave no reassurances to the British fishing industry that it would be guaranteed at least half of the catch. In order that British fishermen can be assured that the Government are not riding roughshod over Parliament, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that business is changed next week so that we can debate the issue, as he promised on 13 July?

It would not be feasible to change the business for next week. I have given an undertaking that before the next meeting of the Council we shall have a full debate.

Reverting to the circumstances of my right hon. Friend's action, he was presented at the eleventh hour with a revised proposal on total reliable catches. That, admittedly, was not the same as the one examined by the Scrutiny Committee. That new document was based on international scientific recommendations in accordance with the policy not only of this Government but of its predecessor. In exercising the liberty that he has under the statement that I made in July, my right hon. Friend was able to achieve useful progress towards a satisfactory solution of the fisheries problem.

Order. I propose to call those hon. Members who have been rising if they will co-operate with me and ask brief questions. I propose also to call the hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley), who wishes to withdraw a previous remark.

As the House will, quite rightly be debating the Welsh economy, will the Leader of the House give an assurance that the House will be granted the opportunity to debate Merseyside affairs, especially as many are unemployed on Merseyside and the unemployment rate is higher than that of Wales?

I am aware of the position in Merseyside. I am afraid that I cannot promise an early debate.

Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed early-day motion 355, which is critical of the Home Secretary's decision to exclude from this country Mr. Romesh Chandra, an Indian citizen, who is president of the World Peace Council?

[That this House deplores the action of the Home Secretary in excluding from the United Kingdom Mr. Romesh Chandra, President of the World Peace Council and Chairman of both the United Nations Committee of Non-Governmental Organisations and the United Nations Non-Governmental Organisation Sub-Committee on Apartheid, believing that this action was intended to hamper and destroy any resistance to the Tory Government's cold-war hysteria.]

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a statement has been made by the Indian Foreign Minister in the Indian Parliament which was critical of the Home Secretary's decision? Would it not be a good idea to give the Home Secretary the opportunity to make a statement at the Dispatch Box defending this disgraceful action?

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, of course, has power to exclude a person on the ground that his judgment is that the exclusion is conducive to the public good. [Interruption.] That is the legal position. He has that power. There is not a right of appeal against that decision, but, of course, my right hon. Friend reached that decision after careful consideration of the factors involved. I know his views on it. He has no reason to change his opinion.

Is the Leader of the House aware that there are further unconfirmed reports of substantial cuts to be made in the overseas aid programme? This, together with the rejection by the present Government of United Nations Security Council resolution 544 regarding compensation to Zambia, makes it absolutely imperative that we have an early debate on overseas aid. May I have that assurance this afternoon?

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman an assurance of an early debate on overseas aid. I recognise the great importance of the question that he has raised. It is a question of balancing the needs of our national and international policy against a background of limited resources. However, I may perhaps give some encouragement to the hon. Member. I know that he is concerned about overseas aid questions, as is the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore). I hope very soon to be able to announce a happy conclusion to these negotiations.

Will the Leader of the House express to the Home Secretary the urgency of the Home Secretary's making a statement on the issue of telephone tapping, particularly in view of the serious allegation in the New Statesman that there is a multiplicity of telephone tapping under the authority of one warrant signed by the Home Secretary? This is clearly wrong. Will the Leader of the House also make clear that in view of the public discussion that is taking place and the exchanges in the House of Commons, the block against Members asking parliamentary questions about telephone tapping will now be lifted in the interests of accountability and open government?

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has already indicated to the House that he will make a statement on this subject. It is one of considerable interest to all Members, and I shall be discussing it with him and putting to him the point made by the hon. Gentleman.

I do not know about the article in the New Statesman. I have given up reading the New Statesman—not for ideological reasons but because in recent months I have found it almost unreadable.

Will the right hon. Gentleman be very careful to see that he does not mislead the House? There were three totally separate documents. There was the first scientific report on fisheries, which came before the Scrutiny Committee in October last year and was reported as suitable for debate on 12 December. That is not the same document as the TAC. It is the one upon which the total allowable catches were based. There was also the document on recording and log-keeping, and so forth, which was also reported earlier. Will the right hon. Gentleman check that he has not unwittingly misled the House, to the effect that this was an immediate problem facing his right hon. Friend? Secondly, will he rest assured that to put down 12 or 14 outstanding fisheries documents for debate in one and a half hours after 10 o'clock is not providing an adequate fisheries debate?

The hon. Gentleman must not jump the gun. No decision has been taken about the timing and the length of the debate to which I have referred.

With regard to the documents, I do not think that I have misled the House. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will read what I said. I distinguished between the various documents. Naturally, the hon. Gentleman is an expert on this matter, which I lay no claim to be, and I am very grateful to him for his lucid explanation of the documentation. That is entirely in accordance with my own knowledge.

In view of the strong support shown by the House yesterday for the setting up of a parliamentary television unit, will the right hon. Gentleman give serious consideration either to facilitating my Bill on the subject or to providing a day on which the House can debate this very serious issue?

I thought that the occasion yesterday was an interesting illustration of what I may call the balance of opinion in the House. I cannot promise an early debate in Government time. Perhaps I may suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he might look to the considerable number of days and half days that are available for private Members' motions. That that might be a suitable vehicle through which to raise the subject again.

A few minutes ago, Mr. Speaker, I asked my right hon. Friend about the appearance of the amended Industry Bill. I have since been advised that the Bill was not amended in Committee. In view of the fact that my comments may have implied some criticism of the efficiency of the Government machine, I should like formally to apologise to my right hon. Friend for the mistake that I made.

As far as the Opposition are concerned, there is no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman's pledge to the Chairman of the Select Committee has been broken. Secondly, there were no exceptional circumstances. Thirdly, the paper on total allowable catches was produced to the Committee in question last November. There was plenty of time for a debate before the Minister circumvented the pledge that he made to the House. Therefore, I finally appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. Will he ask the Minister of Agriculture to make a personal statement to the House explaining in what circumstances—there may have been, in his opinion, circumstances—he broke that pledge to the House of Commons?

I do not think that anyone has broken any pledge, least of all myself. I shall certainly draw this discussion to my right hon. Friend's attention. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will think that honour has been satisfied on this matter and will not go on flogging what is becoming not only a dead but a decomposing horse—or fish. I have been dragged into this whole matter. I think that the best thing would be for the right hon. Gentleman to pursue the detailed points in correspondence with my right hon. Friend.

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that what the Opposition are concerned about in this matter is the weakening of the original undertaking? If the matter is left as it is now—that is to say, with the right hon. Gentleman claiming that the procedure was perfectly properly observed and that nothing unsatisfactory has occurred—the same kind of thing can happen again. It is our belief that the original undertaking remains seriously weakened. If the right hon. Gentleman will not adopt my right hon. Friend's suggestion—which I think is the easy course for him—and ask the Minister of Agriculture to make a statement, may I suggest that he arranges for a debate on this matter? The Opposition are not content that his pledge and the understanding of how these matters should be dealt with in this House shall be weakened. That will be the situation if the matter is left on the basis of his last remarks.

On apoint of order, Mr. Speaker. May I suggest that the body has not only decomposed but has been removed?

Order. We are coming to the conclusion of questions on the Business Statement. There is a statement to follow.

In reply to the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot), I assure him that I do not think that this is a trivial matter, although I think that there has been a misunderstanding. I have given a very clear indication that we shall have a debate and that there will be a further statement.

With regard to strengthening the reply that I gave—which was intended to preserve the constitutional position of this House—far from being weakened, I think that the exchanges on this subject yesterday and today have strengthened that understanding. I shall certainly personally keen an even more vigilant eye on it than I have done in the past.


On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, may I ask for your protection for Back Benchers in this House against a Minister, to wit, the Leader of the House, concerning the pledge that he has broken on fishing—a pledge to Members of this House on an important—

Order. Has the hon. Gentleman a point of order, or is he just repeating the point that he has already made this afternoon?

Yes. I want to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you can give some protection to Back Bench Members—that is my point of order—in a situation in which Ministers of the Crown can break pledges and ignore this House completely.

Order. That complaint is as old as creation. Obviously, in every Government there are hon. Members who feel that a statement is not what they wanted to hear. I am not seeking to intervene at all in the content of the exchanges that have taken place this afternoon. I only want to say that my job is to protect the rules of the House as well as to protect Back Benchers.