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Business Of The House

Volume 77: debated on Thursday 18 April 1985

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

3.30 pm

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

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

MONDAY 22 APRIL—Opposition Day (10th Allotted Day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion entitled "The Dismantling of the Welfare State."

TUESDAY 23 APRIL—Opposition Day (3rd Allotted Day) (Second Part). Until seven o'clock there will be a debate on trade union ballots, on a motion in the names of the Liberal party and the Social Democratic party.

Second Reading of the Ports (Finance)Bill.

Motions on the Foreign Limitation Periods (Northern Ireland) Order and on the Water and Sewerage Services (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order.

WEDNESDAY 24 APRIL—There will be a debate on the White Paper on Financial Services in the United Kingdom, Cmnd. No. 9432, which will arise on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Remaining stages of the Insurance (Fees) Bill.

THURSDAY 25 APRIL—A debate on Foreign Affairs which will arise on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

FRIDAY 26 APRIL—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY 29 APRIL—Second Reading of the Finance Bill.

First, I welcome next Thursday's foreign affairs debate. I hope that the Leader of the House will agree to extend that debate beyond the usual time so that as many Members as possible can take part.

Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman will recall that it is now more than a year since a debate was first promised on the Government's Green Paper on the long-term prospects for public expenditure. I know that this is an increasingly embarrassing topic for the Government, but will they now fulfil that promise?

Finally, may we have a statement next week from the Paymaster General as to what his duties are? He said on the radio this morning that the Government had not prevented this year's GLC's elections from taking place. The House should have the opportunity to examine that statement—a statement which I fear cannot be adequately described within the rules of parliamentary language.

I shall consider the right hon. Gentleman's point about the Paymaster General and convey to him the anxiety that he should make a statement in the House.

As for the request for a debate on long-term public expenditure, this is clearly a matter of great interest to the House and it is the subject of an investigation being undertaken by the Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee. It might be a courtesy to the Select Committee for the House to be in possession of its findings before such a debate, but I shall of course consider the matter further.

I welcome the importance that the right hon. Gentleman attaches to Thursday's debate on foreign affairs. I very much agree with him and think that there would be merit in extending the debate until midnight.

(Kingswood): Will my right hon. Friend enable the House to debate rate increases some time next week or the week after as they have increased by 58 per cent. under Labour in Avon as opposed to 27 per cent. under the Tories in Somerset? Should we not give the Labour party an opportunity to explain the increase in Avon, as the Leader of the Opposition is unlikely to take it when the press put that question to him when he visits my constituency tomorrow?

I appreciate that, in these delicate days ahead of 2 May, there will be a lively interest in these matters. I cannot at the moment provide what my hon. Friend asks in Government time, but I have great faith in his ability to make his case in his own way.

May we have an early statement on the Government's drastically amended Trustee Savings Bank Bill which will not undermine the independence of the Trustee Savings Banks in Scotland or the protections afforded by another place to depositors throughout the United Kingdom? Now that the Leader of the House has announced an Opposition day in our name, will he confirm that useful discussions have taken place to ensure that a fair hearing is given to issues raised from this Bench? Will he welcome the use of that time to ensure that the House debates issues which the other two parties might not want to be debated?

It is a matter of touching observation how the Liberal party now seeks solace in the behaviour of the other place, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that the appropriate place for this House to consider the Trustee Savings Bank Bill is this Chamber.

As for Opposition time and its distribution, I am happy to confirm that, on 13 November 1984, at the conclusion of the debate on the Loyal Address, it was said that there would be a chance to consider those arrangements. I hope that the House will have a chance fairly soon to consider revised Standing Orders. It will then be able to give its authority to what has been suggested.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we all welcome next Thursday's free-ranging debate on foreign affairs? Does he recall that the House has also called for a full and free-ranging debate on law and order? Is he aware that, until we are allowed such a debate rather than the narrow things that we have had this week, we shall go on asking as people are fed up with the state of law and order?

Is the Leader of the House aware that when, last Tuesday, the Prime Minister described next Thursday's national half day school strike as politically inspired, as the president of the campaign which has called that strike I agree with her? It was politically inspired and I am asking the right hon. Gentleman to change the order of business next Thursday because the inspiration for that national half day strike on 25 April has come from the Government's policies of using youth training schemes to massage the dole figures and to reduce young people's wages? We ought next Thursday to debate the youth trade union rights campaign demands that every youngster on a training scheme receives a minimum £55 a week—the trade union rate for the job—and is guaranteed a job at the end of the training scheme.

The hon. Gentleman has had a good run and delivered the speech that he will be unable to make because I have no reason to think that there is a general desire in the House that the debate on foreign affairs promised for Thursday should be dropped from next week's business.

In view of the massive Government majority last night on the BBC licence fee, may we have another debate on that issue so that we can learn the views of the Opposition? We do not know whether they want to increase it further or to have no licence at all. It is obvious that we should have a debate.

The proceedings of this House rest upon a delicate desire not to intrude where it appears to be unseemly.

Does the Leader of the House recognise the need for a debate about the state of the National Health Service, especially in south Manchester where decisions are being taken today that could result in the closure of many wards and the redundancy of up to 100 nurses and 200 non-nursing personnel? Does not that issue demand time within Parliament to discuss the mismanagement of the NHS by the Government?

I should have thought that Monday's debate on what is purported to be the dismantling of the welfare state would give the hon. Gentleman exactly the opportunity that he seeks.

Will my right hon. Friend, as an urgent priority, ensure that this House has an opportunity to discuss in full the implications of the Silberston report? Is he aware that the clothing and textile industry is the fourth largest employer in this country and that many of its employees are concerned at Silberston's prediction that if the report is accepted by the Government another 100,000 people will be made redundant?

My hon. Friend will be aware that there were a number of demands and requests before the Easter recess to debate the textile industry. I said then that I hoped that such a debate could be arranged at some time, but I am afraid that I cannot see that happening in the near future.

Will the Leader of the House rearrange next week's business and find time, perhaps on Wednesday, to debate the proposed closure of the special steels division at Tinsley park that will cost 1,000 jobs in an already decimated area? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a constituent of mine who works at that British Steel corporation plant has recently been awarded the British Empire medal for his work over the past 20 years? He is now facing the possible closure of that plant.

The hon. Gentleman raises a very serious issue for the constituencies affected by the proposed closure. I cannot alter the business set down for next Wednesday, but I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's point to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that, after the Second Reading of the Finance Bill a week next Monday, no more controversial Government Bills will be introduced this Session? As a long period of tranquillity in legislation is needed, could the Government, for the remainder of this Parliament, manage on a three-day week, leaving the other two days to Back Benchers?

My hon. Friend has been here long enough to realise that controversiality lies in the eye of the beholder. His proposals are interesting, and I shall no doubt bear them in mind for next Session, but they could not conceivably reflect upon this Session.

Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate in a matter that is causing undoubted concern—the future of the Royal Navy, and especially the dockyards at Rosyth and Devonport, and the implications of the proposals for those two bases on the naval base in Portsmouth? Is he aware that there is an undoubted need for a wide-ranging debate on the Royal Navy and especially on the defence industries in the Portsmouth and Devonport areas?

Siren voices below the Gangway draw my attention to the business for next Tuesday, but I would not be so cheap as to note that. No Government time can be found for the debate that the hon. Gentleman requests, but I shall draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

In view of the Government's commitment, arising out of their Green Paper, to introduce legislation on the control and welfare of dogs, and while the contents of the next Queen's Speech are currently being considered, will it be possible to have an early debate in the House about an issue that affects many of our constituents and about which they are very concerned?

We are running into a rather delicate period of parliamentary life—May, June and especially July—and I would not wish to add to our postbag or to the general contentiousness by raising the issue of dogs, so dogs will, therefore, lie.

On the subject of the renewal of the multi- fibre arrangement, will the Leader of the House treat the matter with a little more urgency because some of us think that we detect a certain reluctance by the Government even to renew it? As has already been pointed out, that would mean disaster to the textile industry and the loss of up to 150,000 jobs.

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is entitled to that fear. There is no complacency on the part of the Government, but I must have regard to the fact that the House will shortly have to deal with the Finance Bill on the Floor of the House, and this consideration and others must make me a little cautious as to how I answer such requests.

Will my right hon. Friend accept that many hon. Members on this side of the House will support the views expressed by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) about the proposed takeover of Matthew Brown by Scottish and Newcastle Breweries? Will he therefore request that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry makes a statement next week on the issue and makes it clear that the matter will be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission?

My right hon. Friend may find it surprising that I support the official Opposition spokesman, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), in requesting that the debate on foreign affairs next week should be extended beyond the normal hour of 10 o'clock to enable more hon. Members to take part.

I have already conceded the last point that my hon. Friend makes, and there is nothing surprising about him supporting the Opposition. My answer to his question about the proposed brewery takeover is that the Prime Minister set out clearly and precisely the exact legal situation, and I suggest that the House would be well advised to pause before asking for ministerial intervention to set aside what would otherwise be an administrative process.

Will the Leader of the House arrange a debate urgently to discuss education, bearing in mind the present dispute? I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to reply simply by telling me that we debated education and the dispute not long ago. Is he aware that in a fresh debate we might find the answer to the problem and get the Government off the hook?

I fully endorse the observation of the hon. Gentleman about the effect that the conflict is having on the education services of our counties and cities. I shall, of course, refer the point that he makes to the Secretary of State for Education and Science.

Has my right hon. Friend any further news about the Government's intention to make an announcement about the decision by the Joint Committee of both Houses on the Okehampton bypass? If not, will he urge the Secretary of State for Transport to make an announcement to remove doubt on the matter? Will my right hon. Friend also consider the seriousness of the inadequacies of the current public inquiry system affecting major roads, reservoirs and power stations and provide time for a debate on the subject so that we may initiate a new system which will speed up decisions, while providing time for the public inquiry procedure so that all the issues can be heard?

As my hon. Friend says, this is a matter of acute concern to the south-west. The issue is still under consideration by the Secretary of State for Transport, but I shall remind him of the point that my hon. Friend makes about the virtue of an early announcement of a Government decision in the matter.

Will the Leader of the House discuss with the Secretary of State for Social Services the best way in which the House can give consideration—either by way of a statement or a debate—to the important report of the Royal College of Nursing on the future of nursing education? Is he aware that that report estimates that by the end of this decade there will be a shortage of 12,000 nurses? Does he agree, therefore, that the House should give consideration to that possibility?

I take at once the importance of the point to which the hon. Gentleman refers, and will bring it to the attention of the Secretary of State for Social Services. Meanwhile, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will feel it appropriate in Monday's debate to adduce arguments about the future of the nursing services.

Will my right hon. Friend also accept my thanks for giving additional debating time to the alliance? Many of us are finding the greatest difficulty, especially during the current elections, in establishing exactly what the alliance's policies are on any subject. Will my right hon. Friend help the people of Southend by giving the alliance a little more time next week so that we can ascertain whether it is or is not in favour of retaining Southend's excellent grammar schools?

It is not for me to anticipate how the Chair will interpret the width of the motion on Tuesday. The issue that my hon. Friend has raised might well have to be dealt with outside the Chamber. He may well find that as a result of Tuesday's debate he will be stranded in the centre by the rightward lurch of the alliance.

I ask the Leader of the House with the utmost seriousness to approach the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Education and Science for the purpose of finding time for a full-scale debate on the problems facing the teaching profession and education. I have recently returned from the conference of the National Union of Teachers and I have never before seen such unity over the years that I have attended its conferences. It is clear that these moderate people will not back down easily.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we are faced with long industrial action and that if we had a debate in which the grievances could be aired we could move possibly to a conclusion which would benefit education, the teachers, the parents and the children? That could well be the result if only the Government would take some action.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will concur with the view that in all quarters of the House there is a strong awareness of the utmost importance of the education dispute and the factors that it embodies. I shall convey his request to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Order. I shall try to call all those Members who have been rising in their places since the business statement was made, but it will be easier for me to do so if hon. Members ask brief questions.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that during next Thursday's debate on foreign affairs it will be in order to raise matters concerning the space defence initiative—the so-called star wars programme, which is very much misnamed—matters affecting NATO and disarmament?

The debate will take place on a motion for the Adjournment, which is the traditional pattern for foreign affairs debates. It is recognised that such debates range widely. I am sure that the House will wish to talk about East-West relations, arms control and the Geneva talks, which will cover the very issues that my hon. Friend has in mind.

Does the Leader of the House recognise the problems that have been caused to local government by the changes that have been made to the rate support grant settlement after most councils have fixed their rates? Will he arrange time for this issue to be debated`? Would it not be appropriate to debate it before polling day in the county elections?

There are no immediate plans for such a debate, but I shall consult my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and convey to him the hon. Gentleman's request.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is growing concern for the future of the motor car industry, especially because of the delay in the announcement of the BL corporate plan? Will my right hon. Friend ask the Secretary of State for Transport to make a statement on the plan as soon as possible?

Has the Leader of the House had an opportunity to read column 202 of yesterday's edition of Hansard, in which the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, says that

"the Community should revert to a more normal relationship with Turkey, starting with the unblocking of the outstanding aid"? [Official Report, 17 April 1985, Vol. 77, c. 202.]
Is he aware that many peace activists in Turkey are in gaol in terrible conditions and that many other activists, including many thousands of trade unionists, are on trial? Will the Government not be losing an essential lever in persuading the Turkish Government to release these activists from gaol and to abandon the trials by urging the Community to revert to a more normal relationship with Turkey? Surely the Minister who is responsible should justify a policy change before the House instead of doing so by means of a written answer.

I recognise that many hon. Members have taken a close interest over a long period in relations between Britain and Turkey and Turkey's domestic arrangements. I think that Thursday's debate will enable the hon. Gentleman's observations to be aired.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that Monday's debate will provide both the time and the inclination for Opposition spokesmen to tell the 4 million mortgage payers in Britain whether they will abolish their tax relief?

Will the right hon. Gentleman look at early-day motion 525 about the strike of cleaners at Exclusive Cleaning and Maintenance at the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority at Risley?

[That this House strongly condemns the action of Exclusive Cleaning and Maintenance at the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, Risley, in reducing cleaners' earnings by 21p per hour which means that wages have been cut from £25 to £22·50 per week coupled with a reduction of holidays from four weeks to one week, and the use of blackleg labour in a sensitive area who have not received security clearance, despite this having previously been a condition of employment for cleaners; calls upon the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authorityto intervene to ensure that their sub-contractors pay trade union rates and provide decent conditions, particularly in view of the high profits announced by Exclusive Cleaning; and also calls upon the Government to set up an inquiry into the commercial cleaning industry in order to protect the workers and customers from exploitation by unscupulous profiteers.]

Will he ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to make a statement to the House on why Exclusive Cleaning, an anti-trade union company, has the contract for cleaning the Houses of Parliament, particularly as it is trying to reduce the wages of 132 women by 21p an hour to £22·50 a week which has resulted in a strike that has continued for nine weeks? Will he recommend to his right hon. Friend that he should terminate that company's contract forthwith?

That is an interesting extension of the responsibilities that I am supposed to possess with regard to next week's business. I am advised that the contract between Exclusive Cleaning and the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority is consistent with Government guidelines on cleaning contracts, but I shall refer to the relevant Minister the points that have been made.

Notwithstanding my right hon. Friend's announcement of a foreign affairs debate next Thursday, will he arrange for a statement to be made, before the dispatch by the Polish community of Ealing and beyond of its 100th 32-tonne truck full of food and medical aid to Poland next week, upon my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary's most successful tour of iron curtain countries, particularly Poland, his excellent meeting with Cardinal Glemp, his most moving visit to the grave of Father Popieluwski and his talks with leaders of Solidarity? Those are most important and precious to the Polish community in Ealing and the rest of Britain.

My hon. Friend has made generous and justified references to the recent visit of my right hon and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary to eastern Europe, and I shall draw his attention to my hon. Friend's remarks.

Is the Leader of the House aware that, while the report on the Commission for Racial Equality on immigration control procedures may be gathering dust on Home Office shelves, many people in the House and in the country think that the issues that it raises require a debate, and pretty soon? Is the right hon. Gentleman yet in a position to say whether such a debate will ever take place, and, if so, when?

I cannot really add to what I have said previously. I recognise the keen interest that there is that such a debate should take place. I am not yet in a position to provide Government time, but I shall bear in mind the interest.

A moment ago my right hon. Friend refered to his role and powers. Is he aware that he rightly enjoys on both sides of the House a reputation for protecting the interests of Back Benchers and the House? In the light of that, will he share my concern that a statement has come from the Department of Transport to the effect that airports policy, in so far as it relates to current discussions over Stansted, Manchester, Heathrow and so forth, is to be decided, not in the light of the recent debates and decision in the House, but in private quarters within the Department of Transport, and thereafter, not even referred to the House for its approval?

Is not that a disgraceful situation which is a matter of concern that has nothing to do with party politics or even partisan feelings about one's constituency? In the light of what happened over the Maplin Bill 10 years ago, will my right hon. Friend do his duty as Leader of the House to ensure that the present position is reversed?

My hon. Friend's preliminary and good-natured remarks were misplaced. I am a shameless boss's nark and always will be. Unless I were prepared to do the job on those terms, I would not be standing at this Dispatch Box.

My hon. Friend's second point raises a matter that I should like to look into. I shall therefore be in touch with him.

The Leader of the House, in announcing the business for next week, said that the Second Reading of the Ports (Finance) Bill would take place on Tuesday. I tried to obtain a copy of that Bill from the Vote Office but I was told that it was not there and it was not known when it was likely to be there. In view of the importance of that debate, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that there is a copy of the Bill in the Vote Office in the next couple of hours?

Has my right hon. Friend seen today's press announcements about the provision by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment of city action teams, and the towns that have been selected? Will he advise the House when we can expect a statement from the Secretary of State so that cities such as Leicester can be pleaded for by people such as me? The scheme appears to be good, and the House would like other cities to be considered favourably.

I understand my hon. Friend's anxiety that Leicester should also have the advantage of this recent provision, I shall call the attention of my right hon. Friend to what my hon. Friend has said.

Will Tuesday's debate on trade union democracy on a motion tabled by Liberal and Social Democratic Members, be sufficiently wide for hon. Members to refer to the fact that a great deal of hypocrisy abounds from those two parties? The leader of the Liberal party refused to accept the decision of the Liberal party conference when it held a ballot about cruise missiles and said, "Stuff the ballot", and the leader of the SDP fought on one manifesto and changed sides in midstream but has not had the guts to tell his electorate in Plymouth that he had changed his mind and there should be a ballot to endorse his membership of this House. Will the debate be sufficiently wide for such matters to be raised?

The width of the debate is properly a matter for the Chair. However, I have such boundless faith in the ingenuity of the hon. Gentleman that I know that he will open up an aperture through which many other hon. Members will follow.