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Volume 12: debated on Thursday 5 November 1981

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Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Mr Speaker's Rulings

I have a brief statement to make about Mr. Speaker's private rulings—that is to say, rulings given in correspondence but not announced to the House.

Following representations which I have received from the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop), I understand that it is a source of great inconvenience to hon. Members that there is no full and accurate record available of private rulings by past Speakers, although such rulings may nevertheless be called into precedent. I have decided, therefore, that in future, when I give a private ruling which in my judgment is of general interest or could serve as a precedent for the future, the substance of the ruling will be published in the Official Report immediately before replies to written questions. In this way, there will be an accurate public record of all such private rulings in a form in which it is intended that the rulings should be preserved. I hope that hon. Members will find the new procedure helpful.

Business Of The House

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Francis Pym)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a short business announcement.

THURSDAY 12 NOVEMBER—Supply [1st Allotted Day]. There will be a debate on encroachments on local government autonomy, which will arise on an Opposition motion.

FRIDAY 13 NOVEMBER—Debate on the Government's measures to help small businesses, which will arise on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Is the Leader of the House aware of the reports in the national press today of helicopters being used in the course of an industrial dispute affecting my constituency and the premises of Laurence Scott Ltd? Will the right hon. Gentleman make time available next week for a statement by the Home Secretary indicating the part played by 150 policemen of the Greater Manchester police authority in the use of helicopters in the dispute? Is he further aware that it is widely believed that the pilot of the helicopter breached the air regulations appertaining to the use of helicopters in heavily urbanised and built-up city areas? In those circumstances, why on earth did the police co-operate in a breach of the air traffic regulations governing helicopters?

I cannot comment on the details of the incident, but I give the right hon. Gentleman an undertaking that I shall convey his request to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

Order. We have had a brief Business Statement today. I propose to call those hon. Members who have risen to ask questions and then to move on to the application under Standing Order No. 9.

Although the Leader of the House has not managed to squeeze it into the business for next week, will he recognise the importance of having an early debate on the report of the Select Committee on Agriculture on animal welfare and other documents on the subject that are arousing public interest?

Has my right hon. Friend studied the report of the Select Committee on Procedure (Supply) and its recommendations? As the Queen's Speech presages somewhat less legislation this year, may we be assured of a debate on that report as soon as possible, with the possibility that we shall be able to proceed this Session with one of the Committee's recommendations,—if it were accepted by the House—rather than wait until next Session?

My hon. Friend draws the attention of the House to an important report. It is in my mind to have a debate at some point, but I cannot at present say when. I should like the House to express an opinion about the report, and I shall arrange a debate at some stage.

Will the Leader of the House assure us that next week, either on Thursday or Friday, although preferably not Friday, a statement will be made on the renegotiation of the multi-fibre arrangement? On 10 November the Brussels Council of Ministers will meet to discuss the textile negotiations. As the right hon. Gentleman will no doubt appreciate, the negotiations are vital to both the Lancashire and Yorkshire textile industries. It is important, therefore, that a statement is made to the House by a Minister, because Ministers have changed their positions since representations were last made by an all-party textile group and we should be kept up to date on the negotiations that are taking place.

I appreciate the importance of the subject. Indeed, we had a day's debate on it last Session. I shall convey the hon. Gentleman's request to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade.

My right hon. Friend will be aware of today's report by the Scottish Law Commission on the principles and financing of divorce. The implications of the report for the Commission that is considering the English and Welsh provisions for the principles and financing of divorce will obviously be of some importance. Will he ensure that as soon as the decision by the English Commission is revealed he will allow a full day's debate on this matter?

I shall keep that request in mind. At this stage I cannot give any undertaking, but I note what my hon. Friend has said.

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the statement by Alexander Haig that a nuclear bomb demonstration will occur somewhere in Europe? May we have a statement next week on the Government's response?

I doubt whether there will be an appropriate opportunity for such a debate, but no doubt hon. Members will have noted what has been said on this important issue. Up to a point, this might be relevant to the debate on the Loyal Address in reply to the Queen's Speech, which is now before the House.


I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the lack of public confidence in the British security service, in view of recent revelations about the espionage activities of Mr. Leo Long".
I promise, Mr. Speaker, that I shall be brief. It goes without saying that the matter is specific. I submit that the degree of public confidence in the security service is important enough to merit urgent consideration.

The House last debated these matters in November 1979 and was assured by the Attorney-General, and confirmed in a subsequent reply to me by the Prime Minister, that since the Second World War only one case of immunity from prosecution had been granted to a self-confessed traitor. That was in the case of Anthony Blunt. But now another self-confessed traitor, Mr. Leo Long, has appeared on the scene, and for some reason or other he has not been prosecuted.

It is important to debate these matters, because it would bring the law into disrepute if the public gained the impression that there was one law for the old boy network of traitors and another law for the rest of us. It is also important to realise that in one of his public statements Mr. Long said that some of his former contacts could still hold important positions. It could well be that some of them could still be employed in the security service in positions where they could betray the trust bestowed upon them.

It is important that the House allay the suspicions of people outside who may be afraid of a massive establishment cover-up. People are asking how many more traitors will come crawling out of the woodwork of the British establishment. This is causing considerable damage to our credibility both at home and overseas, to such an extent that our security system must be the laughing stock of the world.

In view of the unsatisfactory responses that the House received the last time that it discussed these matters, it is important to discuss them again so that we can hear the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth from the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General.

The hon. Gentleman gave me notice before 12 o'clock midday that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the lack of public confidence in the British security service, in view of recent revelations about the espionage activities of Mr. Leo Long".
I listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman. As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 9 I am directed to take into account the several factors set out in that order but to give no reasons for my decision.

I have given careful consideration to the hon. Gentleman's representations, but I must rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order, and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.