Skip to main content

Business Of The House

Volume 987: debated on Thursday 3 July 1980

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 to 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 7 JULY—Consideration of Private Members' motions until 7 o'clock.

Afterwards, completion of the Report stage of the Civil Aviation Bill.

TUESDAY 8 JULY—Progress on remaining stages of the Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Bill.

Motions on the Northern Ireland orders on roads and private streets.

WEDNESDAY 9 JULY—Debate on the White Paper on the government of Northern Ireland: proposals for further discussion, Cmnd. 7950.

Motion on the Northern Ireland (Interim Period Extension) Order.

THURSDAY 10 JULY—Supply [25th Allotted Day]: Debate on an Opposition motion on the persistent decline in manufacturing industry.

FRIDAY 11 JULY—Debate on information technology, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

MONDAY 14 JULY—Supply [26th Allotted Day]: A debate on the persistent rise in unemployment, on an Opposition motion.

With regard to Wednesday's business, it is the hope of the Opposition that there will be a general discussion on these matters though it is not the intention of the Opposition to divide the House on them at this stage.

The right hon. Gentleman and the House will note that the two matters to be debated on Thursday and the following Monday are related. There is a decline in manufacturing industry and there is a persistent rise in unemployment. In the days at our disposal between now and the end of the Session we shall continue to call attention to these problems. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in the light of the disastrous impact of redundancies, unemployment and closures notified day by day to hon. Members on both sides of the House by their constituents, the Government are willing to give an extra day next week for a debate on unemployment and what is happening to the country as a result of continual closures? That will give an opportunity to all hon. Members who are affected to express the views of their constituents.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for telling me about the intention of the Opposition on Wednesday. That is, of course, wholly appropriate, since it would not be suitable to divide the House on a discussion document that is not putting forward definitive Government proposals to the House.

As for the question of an extra day for a debate on unemployment, I think that the use of the Opposition's Supply day should be adequate for them to raise the points that they wish to have discussed. Of course, we very much regret the present high level of unemployment, but we feel that we must go through this period of difficulty so that the economy can be put on a lasting and sound basis for the future.

While I am not sure that the advice that I give to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is heeded as much as it should be, I am grateful to the Government for reducing the minimum lending rate today. Will my right hon. Friend arrange an early debate on the problems of smaller businesses, so that those problems—created as much by the previous Government as by high interest rates—can be displayed to the Government? That will mean that small businesses, which are the seed corn of our future, will feel that their problems are being adequately debated in the House.

In his Budget Statement my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer produced a number of measures offering material help to small businesses. Those measures have been widely welcomed and, therefore, I do not think that a further debate on the subject is necessary.

I do not underestimate the weight of the advice given by my hon. Friend in respect to the reduction in the minimum lending rate, but I understand that other factors came into operation in reaching that welcome decision.

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept the argument of the Leader of the Opposition for a much longer period of debate on the increasing incidence of unemployment throughout the kingdom? Very much as a secondary matter, will he consider—because of the increasing interest in arts affairs—extending the 10 minutes a month to 15 minutes a month for questions on that subject?

I do not think that I can add to what I have already said on the question of a debate on unemployment. I would, of course, welcome a longer period for questions on the arts, and we can certainly look at that again in the next Session of Parliament. I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that that separate period for arts questions is the first of its kind that we have had in the House.

In view of the recent statements about relations between the police and the immigrant community, would it be possible to have a debate on immigration in the near future, particularly as this very important subject is seldom debated in the House?

I cannot promise an early debate on that subject, though there will no doubt be an opportunity at a later stage.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the document published by the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation this week entitled "A new deal for Steel"? In view of the desperate situation in which the steel industry finds itself will the right hon. Gentleman say whether we can have a debate on that situation during the course of the next few weeks, and in any case before the House rises for the Summer Recess?

I have seen the document to which the hon. Gentleman refers but I am afraid that I cannot promise an early debate. It was an interesting document, but I wish that a clearer connection had been made in it between the price of products and wages paid.

I wonder whether my right hon. Friend has anything to tell the House in relation to statements made by Members of the House under the cloak of privilege? Alternatively, does he have a statement to make about arranging a debate about the statement that was made by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), which has not been retracted—[Interruption.] Will there be an opportunity for the House to discuss this matter, which has caused a good deal of unease on both sides of the House?

I certainly share the concern of my hon. Friend about this matter. I suggest, however, that we wait upon events.

Order, I should tell the House that as well as an application under Standing Order No. 9 there is a personal statement to be made later in the afternoon. I hope that hon. Gentlemen will bear that in mind and try to be brief with questions.

Has the Leader of the House had an opportunity to see early-day motion 726, standing in my name and that of 120 other hon. Members of all parties, relating to the need for the Ministry of Defence to publish a list of the countries invited to the British Arms Equipment Exhibition in Aldershot?

[That this House Calls upon Her Majesty's Government to state which countries have been invited to the British Army Equipment Exhibition front 24 to 27 June, and to describe what steps are being taken to prevent the export of arms technology from contributing to the violation of human rights in countries such as Uruguay, Argentina, Libya, Zaire, Turkey, South Korea and Indonesia, where such practices are widely attested.]

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the Ministry of Defence should make an early statement?

I understand that the Government's position on that point and the point raised in the motion has already been stated in reply to questions in this House and in correspondence. The list of countries invited to exhibitions has traditionally been treated as confidential by successive Administrations. The Gov- ernment's policy on exports to the countries named is that we continue to withhold approval for the supply of equipment which we reason to believe might be used against the civilian population.

In view of the £42½ million written answer from the Northern Ireland Office on Tuesday, which must rank as about the most expensive written answer in our history, would it be in order to debate the present and future of Harland and Wolff on any of the Northern Ireland business before the House next week, and, if so, which? If not, could we have a very early debate on this matter?

It is not my function, Mr. Speaker, to rule on what is in order in a debate. My hon. Friend has a reputation for ingenuity, and I am sure that he will be able to raise any matter that he wishes in the Northern Ireland debates while remaining within the rules or order.

In view of the harsh inhumane treatment meted out to detainees in many parts of the world, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for his right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal to make a statement next week on the Government's attitude towards the proposed international convention on torture?

I shall certainly draw that matter to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal when he returns from Korea.

Will the Leader of the House accept that the textile industry in the West Riding and Lancashire is in a very difficult situation? His answer last week to a request for a day's debate was not satisfactory, because a general debate does not enable a Minister to be made fully accountable by giving detailed answers to account for the Government's apparent indifference. The level of unemployment in the textile industry is increasing. In the first four months of this year there was a deficit of £200 million in textile goods. As a matter of urgency, for the third biggest employer in industrial manufacturing—clothing and textiles combined—may we have an early debate?

I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern about the future of the textile industry, but we have had four debates recently on regional matters, one of which, certainly, could cover the point that the hon. Gentleman raised. Far from being indifferent to the textile industry, the Government have declared their intention not only of upholding the present multi-fibre arrangement but of seeing that when that expires in 1981 it is replaced by adequate measures to protect the industry.

May I ask my right hon. Friend when he himself wants to break for the Summer Recess, so that we may know when we shall break for it?—or shall we be told at the last minute?

My hopes are that we shall rise some time in August. On this occasion my hopes are matched by my expectations.

It the right hon. Gentleman aware that the present unemployment situation bears exceptionally heavily on handicapped people? Will he, therefore, allow a debate on the sort of situation that exists in Leicester where the careers service for handicapped people is being cut to the bone and one of the only two careers officers dealing especially with them is being sacked?

I understand the importance of the point that the hon. and learned Gentleman raises. I cannot promise an early debate. On the situation in Leicestershire, I understand that the policy of the county council there is to concentrate on preserving the pupil-teacher ratio, and that is an aim of which I am sure the hon. and learned Gentleman will approve.

Three major reports on the prison service have been published recently—the May committee report, the White Paper response to the report of the Expenditure Committee, and the report of the parliamentary all-party penal affairs group, "Too Many Prisoners". Will the Leader of the House confirm that there will be an early opportunity to debate these, and that that debate will not take place on a Friday?

I certainly confirm that there will be an early debate on this subject. I am most anxious to fit it in before we rise for the recess. I cannot give an undertaking that it will not be on a Friday. After all, Friday is a Government day now and, while I try to avoid having important debates on Fridays if I can, I cannot possibly rule out Friday because it might mean ruling out the debate.

Does the Leader of the House remember that during business questions last week he gave an undertaking that he would discuss with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland the possibility of making a very early statement on the future of teacher training colleges? Has the Leader of the House had that discussion? If so, what has been the outcome?

Yes I have raised the matter with my right hon. Friend. He is still considering it.

As a matter of fairness, will the Leader of the House give consideration to the possibility of a debate on the shabby and unfair treatment of the nationalised industries by the present Government?

That is an interesting point. I deny the premise of the hon. Gentleman's question and, therefore, his conclusion that flows from it.

Will the Leader of the House give some attention to the desire on both sides of the House for an early debate on the position of British exporting industries? This matter is much broader than merely textiles, engineering and chemicals. As many of us know, in all of the constituencies in which the brass of this country is made, industies that are good exporters in normal times are being cut down, and they cannot compete. We desperately need a debate on what the Government will do about our exporting industries.

I am extremely interested in that question, as I represent a constituency that contains some of our major exporting industries. However, the matter that the hon. Gentleman raises is relevant to many of our debates, and I cannot promise a special discussion on it.

Is the Leader of the House aware that Ministers have tabled over 80 amendments to the Youth and Community Bill, which is due to have its Report stage tomorrow? Are these to enable the very few hon. Members who disagree with the Bill to talk at length, or do they represent a genuine attempt to expedite and improve the Bill? If it is the latter, will the right hon. Gentleman ask his hon. Friends not to delay the Bill tomorrow? If it goes beyond tomorrow will he give time one night next week to enable the Bill to be completed?

If my hon. Friends have tabled amendments to that Bill, it is obviously with the intention of improving it. There is no question about that. I hope that there will be a full debate on Friday, but I cannot promise time for that Bill. However, there is a chance for a further debate on the subject on Monday.

Order. I propose to call those hon. Members who have been rising in their places. Mr. Eric Heffer. [Laughter.]

Order. I very rarely miss the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), but has he not been rising?

As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, I was beginning to think that it was doing my health a great deal of good for me to bounce up and down like a yo-yo, but I am not complaining.

Will the Leader of the House reconsider his reply to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in relation to unemployment? Is the Leader of the House aware that Merseyside has 98,000 people unemployed out of a population of less than 1½ million? Is he aware that we are now faced with the problem of Cammell Laird not getting possible orders for ships? If the Cammell Laird shipyard went out of business it would mean utter destruction for Birkenhead and the people of Merseyside. Is it not time that we had a serious discussion about areas such as Merseyside, in which we shall have no industry, no employment, and poverty for our people unless something is done about the situation?

I am aware of the special position in Merseyside. The whole country is going through a crisis in employment, caused by a world recession. By the assistance that the Government are giving to special areas they are showing that they are concerned about the matter. We hope that it will be a temporary phase and that unemployment will be reduced as the Government's policies come into operation.

Last week the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) made a suggestion, which was repeated today by the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr), relating to statements made in this House under privilege and their possible consideration by the Committee of Privileges. Does the Leader of the House realise that if we are to enter into a system of that kind it needs to be even-handed between both sides of the House? Is he aware that some hon. Members regard previous statements that certain people have sympathy with the IRA—statements that have been unwithdrawn for a full year since they were made in the House—as far more serious allegations than any others that could possibly be made?

The hon. Gentleman is being less than his normal helpful self. It is not in order to debate personal statements after they have been made. It is better to avoid trying to debate them before they are made.

On the question of unemployment in Merseyside, I am sure that it was an oversight by the Leader of the House that he did not announce a date for a debate on that matter. Does he realise that unemployment in Merseyside among active males is nearly 25 per cent.? Is he aware that, following statements by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Industry, the people of Merseyside realise that unemployment is now not a consequence of the Government's economic policies but one of their main tools? They are using unemployment in lieu of an incomes policy to persuade people to accept cuts in wages.

I do not think that that is so. Unfortunately, unemployment is rising throughout the industrial world, and the unemployment in Britain is part of that wider problem. There will be an opportunity for the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends to raise that matter in the Supply day debate on Monday.

Will the Leader of the House find time next week for the House to be told why the wets in the Cabinet have refused to do anything to challenge the policies that are causing so much harm and unemployment in Britain at the present time? Should it not be expected that those members of the Cabinet who realise the harm being done by the monetarists should stand up and fight?

I do not understand to what the hon. Gentleman is referring. The Cabinet is entirely united in supporting the Government's policies. My position remains neither wet nor dry, but that of the extreme centre.

I hope that I can help the Leader of the House to be little more constructive on this matter. Is he aware that in the recent debate on the Second Reading of the Coal Industry Bill the spokesman who replied for the Government said that deficit financing would be introduced by 1983, but that that was a flexible date? Because the Venice summit has, since then, suggested that coal production should be doubled, and because the National Union of Mineworkers is meeting next week for its conference in Eastbourne, is it not a sensible idea that a statement should be made by the Secretary of State for Energy, either in Committee or in the House, to the effect that the clause that refers to removing grants will be taken out of the Bill, so that we can ensure that more coal is produced in Britain in line with the Venice declaration?

If that matter is relevant to the Committee stage of the Bill it can be raised there. If that is so, it would not be in order to discuss it on the Floor of the House.