UK, HC, “Business of the House”, vol 995 (1980), cols 1071-1082
By: UK (House of Commons)
Citation: UK, HC, “Business of the House“, vol 995 (1980), cols 1071-1082.
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Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale) Will the Leader of the House state the business for next week?
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Leader of the House of Commons and Minister for the Arts (Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas) The business for next week will be as follows:
MONDAY 15 DECEMBER—Private Members’ motions until 7 o’clock.
Afterwards, Proceedings on the Anguilla Bill [Lords].
Motion on the Imprisonment (Temporary Provisions) Act 1980 (Continuance) Order.
TUESDAY 16 DECEMBER—Supply [2nd Allotted Day]: Subject for debate to be announced.
The House will be asked to agree the Civil and Defence Votes on Account and the Winter Supplementary Estimates.
Motion on Community tariff quotas for newsprint on the Department of Trade’s unnumbered explanatory memorandum of 28 November and supplementary memorandum of 11 December.
Motion on the Redundant Mineworkers and Concessionary Coal (Payments Schemes) (Amendment No. 3) Order.
WEDNESDAY 17 DECEMBER — Proceedings on the Consolidated Fund Bill.
THURSDAY 18 DECEMBER—Supply [3rd Allotted Day]: Debate on developments in the European Community January-June 1980, Cmnd. 8042.
FRIDAY 19 DECEMBER—It will be proposed that the House should rise for the Christmas Adjournment until Monday 12 January 1981.
[Debate on European Community proposal relating to newsprint quotas: The relevant reports of the European Legislation Committee are the Second and Fourth Reports of 1980–81 (HC 32-ii and 32-iv, 1980–91). Neither report has been published, but photocopies are available in the Vote Office.]
Mr. Foot May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that there is a series of extremely important interlocking economic and industrial questions on which we have asked him to ensure that we have statements before the house rises for the Christmas Recess? Will he now tell us about them?
Will the right hon. Gentleman make sure that the Secretary of State for the Environment makes a statement to the House on the rate support grant, which will affect local authorities in a very special way this year and may affect the employment levels throughout the country in a very special way this year? May we therefore have a statement from the Secretary of State for the Environment on Tuesday?
Will the right hon. Gentleman also tell me when we shall get the statement—for which I have asked for two weeks now, or at any rate for one week — on the financial crisis in the railways, which is a matter of major importance for the country’s economy as a whole?
With regard to the steel industry, which we were discussing a few minutes ago, we do not believe that the Government’s response to what I have said and to what has been said generally in any way meets the position. We believe that it is essential for the House to have a debate on the matter first. [Interruption.] In that case, we shall 1072 on Tuesday table for discussion the question of the Government’s direct responsibility for the difficulties of the steel industry, which carries it very much further. When the Home Secretary intervenes from his reclining position to tell me how to—[Interruption.] It sounded to me as though he was saying “Supply day, Supply day”. He has been saying it for quite a long time. May I tell him that we believe that we had every right to urge—the Government have so far refused to agree—that there should be a general debate next Tuesday on unemployment.
We are confronted, therefore, with a mounting industrial and economic crisis of huge dimensions throughout the country, and we shall have to take that into account in all the business next week, including the motion for the Adjournment for the Christmas Recess, if that is, tabled. We may have to table an amendment to that motion to get the Government to report to the House properly on all these questions.
Mr. St. John-Stevas The right hon. Gentleman has in part answered his own question. Of course, these important matters should be debated by the House, but we have made available a Supply day on Tuesday and it is open to the Opposition to choose what subjects they wish. On Thursday next week there is a second Supply day, which is at present devoted to European matters.
With regard to the statements for which the right hon. Gentleman has asked, I cannot promise an early statement on transport, one of the reasons being that the demand for statements next week is becoming so heavy that we are in danger of their cutting into the Opposition Supply day or into private Members’ time. I have consulted my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and he is more than willing to make an oral statement on the rate support grant in the House next week. If necessary, I shall ask him to make an additional statement on other matters.
Mr. Foot The right hon. Gentleman must take into account that it is not the Opposition that is responsible for the series of economic crises; it is the Government. The Government have a duty to report to the House upon them. The Government have a duty to ensure that the House does not go away for Christmas without these matters being properly debated and discussed. We are seeking to do our best to assist the Government in relation to the steel debate, although it will mean that we shall not be able, as a result, to have the more general debate on unemployment which I am sure is desired by many hon. Members, certainly on the Opposition Benches.
The right hon. Gentleman has now answered the question about the financial crisis on the railways. I hope that there will be a statement about that, too. I hope that at the beginning of next week he will let us have a look at the series of statements that he is proposing, because they will govern our attitude to the motion that he may seek to move on Wednesday.
Mr. St. John-Stevas I shall do my best to ensure that statements on a variety of subjects are made next week, but there is a physical limit to the number of statements that can be made in any one week in this House. There is the opportunity to raise a number of subjects on the Consolidated Fund Bill. I am proposing to table on 1073 Wednesday the motion for the Christmas Adjournment, when there will be further opportunity for hon. Members to raise subjects of importance and interest to the House.
Mr. Edward du Cann (Taunton) If the MacGregor report merits the serious study that the Prime Minister wisely recommends, will my right hon. Friend ensure that we in the House see it as early as possible? So often we have to read parts of these reports, which are leaked somewhat selectively.
Secondly, in the context of today’s report by the Select Committee on the Treasury and Civil Service, will my right hon. Friend arrange, in the new year, for an early debate upon the subject of the Civil Service?
Mr. St. John-Stevas I shall bear in mind the second request. I shall have to consider it in the context of the programme when we return after the recess. It is essential that the responsible Minister should have time to study Mr. MacGregor’s report, and that the House should have an opportunity to assess it seriously. I shall do what I can to see that the report is made available to hon. Members.
Sir Harold Wilson (Huyton) When the main spate of Second Readings—usually held at this time of the year—has; been completed, will the right hon. Gentleman provide time to debate the final report of the committee of inquiry into the financial institutions, which was published more than six months ago? In that way we should be following the example of the Macmillan report, the Radcliffe report and, I think, every report of that type since 1720.
Mr. St. John-Stevas I welcome the right hon. Gentleman back to the House after his recent illness. We are delighted to see him. I congratulate him on his excellent report on the financial institutions of the City, which disappointed so many of his friends. A debate was held on the Radcliffe report. The right hon. Gentleman’s report ranks with that, and I shall do my best to see whether we can arrange a debate at an appropriate moment.
Sir Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East) Given the spontaneous and overwhelming opposition expressed on both sides of the House to the recent strange and unacceptable proposals for the future of the Falkland Islands, and given that anxieties have been expressed to some of us by the Falkland Islanders, will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that this subject will be debated at an early stage?
Mr. St. John-Stevas I cannot give that assurance, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Government are determined to protect the rights of the Falkland Islanders.
Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-West) As the Leader of the House said that we would have various oral statements next week, will he ask the Home Secretary to make a statement on the extent to which the Government have taken positive steps to prevent lawlessness, and the growing number of muggings, and so on? Does the right hon. Gentleman not accept that the Government were elected to prevent lawlessness and to increase law and order? They have given the police extra pay, but there has not been any improvement in the suppression of lawlessness.
Mr. St. John-Stevas My right hon. Friend is pursuing a vigorous policy against lawlessness, principally by 1074 strengthening and supporting the police. That is important. I cannot promise a debate, but the subject might well be relevant to the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill.
Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton) What progress has been made on the use of the Public Bill procedure? That is a matter of great interest to the House. May we have an early debate in the new year on the important subject of data protection, on which the Lindop committee reported as long ago as 1978? In due course the House will have to legislate on that.
Mr. St. John-Stevas I shall consider my hon. Friend’s request for a debate on data protection. Following the endorsement by the House of the Government’s proposal to undertake an experiment, in which Standing Committees on Public Bills will be permitted to have up to three sittings in Select Committee form, Standing Committees will be able to take evidence in public. The first two Bills selected for the new procedure are the education special needs Bill—which will be introduced in this House shortly after Christmas—and the Deep Sea Mining (Temporary Provisions) Bill, if and when that Bill comes from the other place. I shall make a further announcement about the third Bill as soon as possible.
Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight) Given that we are not going to get a statement on the recent visit to Dublin, can we not at least have a debate on it? The situation in Northern Ireland is serious, and to be allowed one and a half hours after midnight to discuss the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act is insufficient.
Mr. St. John-Stevas Hon. Members did not have only one and a half hours after midnight in which to debate Northern Ireland. They had a full day’s debate on the Northern Ireland (Appropriation) Order. That is equivalent to the Consolidated Fund Bill. Indeed, the House rightly sat until late last night debating Northern Ireland affairs. I cannot promise another full debate or. Northern Ireland in the immediate future.
Mr. John Silkin (Deptford) Will the Leader of the House reconsider including the British Nationality Bill in the new Select Committee procedure? It fits into that procedure. If such Bills are not included, I suspect that the new Select Committee will be like a neutered tabby cat.
Mr. St. John-Stevas I shall not follow the right hon. Gentleman into animal metaphors. I am certainly willing to consider his suggestion. It is important that major Bills should be included in this procedure, and I shall be happy to discuss this subject further with the right hon. Gentleman.
Mr. John Farr (Harborough) Given the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. Du Cann) about the Civil Service, can my right hon. Friend tell us when the Government expect to receive the report on index-linking for civil servants’ pensions? Will he give the House an assurance that we shall have an opportunity to debate it at the earliest possible opportunity?
Mr. St. John-Stevas We have not got a date for the reception of the Scott report. However, I imagine that the report on index-linked pensions will be before us early in the new year. The Government will then consider the matter, and will draw conclusions. As my hon. Friend raised the subject of the Civil Service, I take this 1075 opportunity to pay tribute, on behalf of all hon. Members, to the work of the Civil Service and to the impartial service that it gives to the House and to all parties.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that as Leader of the House he has an obligation to all hon. Members? Given that there is a demand for a statement on the Dublin talks, and given the importance of those talks, will he provide sufficient time for a statement? Will he bear in mind that a debate on those talks is taking place in the Dublin Parliament? If those talks can be debated in the Dublin Parliament, why cannot there be a debate in the British House of Commons?
Mr. St. John-Stevas As the hon. Gentleman knows, the subject was raised yesterday during the debates on Northern Ireland. As Leader of the House, I am conscious of my duty to all hon. Members. However, the precedents are against the hon. Gentleman. When the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir Harold Wilson) and the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) held the office of Prime Minister, six meetings were held with the Taoiseach. Not once was a statement made in the House after a meeting. The precedents are there for hon. Members to see. The fact that the Prime Minister of Ireland described the meeting as “historic” is not a reason for the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to make a statement in the House.
Mr. Foot The right hon. Gentleman appears to be claiming that there are precedents for the Prime Minister’s action. On how many of those previous occasions did the Taoiseach hold a debate in the Irish Parliament and describe the matter in such terms?
Mr. St. John-Stevas No Minister, whether the Prime Minister or the humblest Under-Secretary, has any responsibility for what the Prime Minister of Ireland says in his own Parliament.
Mr. Dudley Smith (Warwick and Leamington) My right hon. Friend will be aware that a debate has been promised on the possible introduction into Britain of heavier lorries. When is that debate likely to take place? Together with the Patronage Secretary, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the fact that influential sources have suggested that there should be a free vote at the end of the day?
Mr. St. John-Stevas I shall certainly consider those matters. I always welcome a free vote which applies to everyone, including the Front Bench. However, free votes have become progressively rare. I cannot promise a debate on this important subject next week.
Several Hon. Members rose—
Mr. Speaker Order. I propose to call only those right hon. and hon. Members who have been rising.
Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe) May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 19 on unemployment in South Yorkshire?
[That this House deplores the rapidly increasing level of unemployment in South Yorkshire, where nearly 60,0.00 people were out of work in November, which amounts to 10 per cent. of the county’s workforce and represents an increase of 3,300 jobless in just one month; 1076notes that unemployment in Mexborough is 16.2 per cent., the eighth highest in England, in Rotherham, a development area, it is 10.8 per cent., in Barnsley 10.6 per cent., in Doncaster 11.7per cent., and in Maltby 12.6 percent., all intermediate areas, whilst in Sheffield, which is due to lose its assisted area status in 1982, and where there is virtually no demand at all in the manufacturing sector and unfilled vacancies are the lowest on record, there are now 24,500 people out of work, an increase of 50 per cent. since May; further notes that gloomy though these figures are, they further conceal the even more serious unemployment problems of smaller areas and of particular groups of people in such towns as Penistone, Wombwell, Thorne, Goldthorpe and Dinnington; calls attention to the Monopolies Commission Report on the British Gas Corporation and its threat to jobs in South Yorkshire, where it has been estimated that at least 500 jobs are at risk; and calls upon the Government to recognise that the magnitude of the unemployment problems justifies a far higher level of aid to South Yorkshire, and urges it to match the vigorous employment promotion and development programmes of the county council and the district councils.]
How far can Ian MacGregor’s proposals on South Yorkshire go? The right hon. Gentleman must know, even if the Prime Minister does not, that major surgery is contemplated. How far can those proposals be carried out without totally destroying the morale and commitment of men and management in private as well as public steel in its British heartland — Sheffield? Therefore, will the right hon. Gentleman look more seriously at the request by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition for a special debate next week, before the Christmas Recess?
Mr. St. John-Stevas Everyone in the House is concerned about unemployment. The situation in South Yorkshire, though difficult, is by no means the most difficult facing the country. I shall certainly bear in mind what the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) said. However, I cannot fit in a debate in Government time next week.
Mr. Selwyn Gummer (Eye) Does my right hon. Friend agree that many hon. Members on the Government Benches regard defence as perhaps the most important subject that we discuss? In order that the Opposition should be properly represented on this occasion, will he arrange a debate on one of the two motions which are down for an early day which draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Leader of the Opposition, in distributing his Shadow Cabinet portfolios, thought defence so unimportant as not to be worthy of a seat in the Shadow Cabinet?
Mr. Michael Cocks (Bristol, South) Be careful.
Mr. St. John-Stevas I am grateful for the warning from the Opposition Chief Whip that I must not dissipate the ecumenical atmosphere which prevails at the moment.
I have noted the valid point made by my hon. Friend, but it is a matter for the Leader of the Opposition to decide. I am more concerned with the affairs of the real Cabinet than of the Shadow Cabinet.
Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North) As I understand that the Council of Ministers is to discuss the common fisheries policy again next week, may we be assured that 1077 there will be a statement by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on this important issue before the Christmas Recess?
Mr. St. John-Stevas I shall certainly bear in mind the right hon. Gentleman’s request.
Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) Does my right hon. Friend accept that many hon. Members on the Government Benches share the deep feelings expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) about the Government’s intentions towards the Falkland Islands and believe that a debate on this vital issue is long overdue and should be held as soon as possible after the Christmas Recess?
Am I correct in believing that there will be a statement on the rate support grant next week and that it is the custom of the House to debate such announcements by the 3overnment before Christmas? Otherwise, Members of Parliament seeking to represent their constituencies are placed in a very difficult position, as are local authorities. Will he find time to debate this subject on Thursday, instead of the European debate?
Mr. St. John-Stevas I hope that I reassured my hon. Friend on the status of the Falkland Islanders in the reply that I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine). I think that that statement shows that the need for an immediate debate is somewhat Jess pressing, but I shall consider that matter in future.
I have already said that the statement on the rate support grant will be made on Tuesday by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. My hon. Friend is correct in saying that a debate is normally held shortly afterwards. But if he casts his mind back to the unfortunate events at the end of the last Session when this statement had to be deferred, he will see that it is not possible to fit in a debate because of the delay caused by that incident. However, shortly after we return from the recess, we shall have a debate on the rate support grant.
Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden) Has the leader of the House had an opportunity to study the grotesque happening on Tuesday in the Scottish Grand Committee when the Secretary of State for Scotland could not muster a single vote and, incredibly, not even his own vote in support of his policy to close colleges of education in Scotland? Has he also noted that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher), is quoted in the press today as conceding that the whole business was a shambles? In view of that, despite the pressures, will he arrange for the Secretary of State for Scotland to explain what he proposes to do about it?
Mr. St. John-Stevas I do not follow events in the Scottish Grand Committee as closely as does the hon. Gentleman. Nevertheless, I am aware of the issues involved. Indeed, I have had considerable correspondence from Scotland on this matter, and I have been in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland on the future of education colleges. My right hon. Friend is very much aware of the problems facing the Scottish education system as a result of the present proposals. I shall draw the hon. Gentleman’s re narks to the attention of my right hon. Friend
Mr. John Bruce-Gardyne (Knutsford) My right hon. Friend’s notice of the business for Tuesday reminds the 1078 House that we are again to be called upon to approve hundreds of millions of pounds of Supplementary Estimates on the nod. In the light of that, may I ask what progress has been made on the establishment of the new Procedure Committee?
Mr. St. John-Stevas We are committed to setting up this Procedure Committee. Discussions are going on between myself and the new Shadow Leader of the House. Discussions are also going on through the usual channels. I hope to be in a position to table a motion next week.
Mr. Bruce Millan (Glasgow, Craigton) The Leader of the House has acknowledged that there is serious concern in Scotland about the Secretary of State’s proposals on colleges of education. Would not the simple answer be for the Secretary of State for Scotland to make a statement next week withdrawing his proposals? Will the right hon. Gentleman ask him to do that?
Mr. St. John-Stevas I am sure that that would give satisfaction to some—[HON. MEMBERS: “All.”]—but it would cause difficulties for others. In view of the importance of the matter, I shall see the Secretary of State for Scotland and discuss the matter with him.
Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North) Would not my right hon. Friend be able to overcome the problem that has become more than apparent recently, particularly today, by setting aside a quarter of an hour at a quarter to two every Friday so that the geriatric vandal and elderly windbag the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) can question the Prime Minister to his heart’s content, thereby allowing other right hon. and hon. Members the opportunity to question my right hon. Friend on Tuesdays and Thursdays?
Hon. Members Withdraw.
Mr. St. John-Stevas Never mind about withdrawal at this stage. I do not know whether it is better to be an elderly or a juvenile windbag. [Interruption.]
Mr. Speaker Order. Time is running out. The Leader of the House speaks for us all.
Mr. Edward Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil) The Leader of the House will know that for many weeks we have pleaded with him to arrange a debate on the report of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs. As the Prime Minister is going to Cardiff this evening and will sense the wrath of the Welsh people at the present economic situation, will the right hon. Gentleman make an opportunity available for hon. Members to express similar anger and sense of frustration in the House by organising a debate on the Select Committee’s report?
Mr. St. John-Stevas There has just been a debate on Welsh affairs in the Welsh Grand Committee—
Mr. Rowlands On housing.
Mr. St. John-Stevas Yes, I know that it was on housing. It was not on the Select Committee’s report. We must have a debate on the Committee’s report when we return after Christmas. I cannot guarantee that it will be on the Floor of the House, but I can guarantee that there will be a debate. I suggest that the matter of where the debate should be held should be discussed through the usual channels.
Mr. Robert Kilroy-Silk (Ormskirk) Is the Leader of the House aware that the White Paper on young offenders 1079 contains a number of proposals which will have serious consequences for juveniles and the criminal justice system? Will he give an assurance that we shall have the opportunity for an early debate on the White Paper?
Mr. St. John-Stevas It is an important White Paper, and I know of the hon. Gentleman’s interest in the subject. I shall bear that in mind when planning our programme after the recess.
Mr. Kenneth Marks (Manchester, Gorton) I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 53, which refers to the anomaly that the House has effectively abolished capital punishment in this country but that it still exists in the few colonies for which we are responsible.
[That this House reiterates its view that capital punishment for murder should not be reintroduced in the United Kingdom and urges the Government to advise Her Majesty to exercise the Prerogative of Mercy in all cases in British Colonies.]
Will the right hon. Gentleman urge the Minister in charge of the debate on Anguilla on Monday to make clear the Government’s view on this matter?
Mr. St. John-Stevas I will certainly pass that on to the Minister concerned. But, of course, there is no necessary connection between abolition of capital punishment in the United Kingdom and abolition in the dependent territories. There is, of course, an exercise of the Crown’s prerogative of mercy in those territories, which is delegated to the Governors, who act on their own judgment after consulting their own executive councils. As hon. Members will be aware from the answer given by my hon. Friend the Minister of State to a question on 29 October, this does not preclude Her Majesty from exercising clemency on the advice of the Government here, but I should say to the hon. Gentleman that in practice such interventions are very rare.
Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West) May I urge upon the right hon. Gentleman the great need for a statement on transport next week? Is he aware of the very real anger of my constituents—a large number of them hitherto solid supporters of his party rather than of mine—about the closure of four stations in my constituency and many more over the rest of South London, and the virtual prevention of those people from getting home at night by public transport? May we have a chance to question the Minister of Transport about the situation?
Mr. St. John-Stevas I am aware of the situation in South London and of the latest developments today, and I express my concern about the situation. The difficulty lies in fitting in yet another statement next week, but I will certainly consider the matter to see what we can do. Meanwhile, I will raise the matter urgently with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport.
Mr. George Foulkes (South Ayrshire) Will the Leader of the House confirm that a guarantee has been given to the Prime Minister of Canada of unlimited time for the passage of the Canada Bill through this House, and that this is holding up other legislation, such as that for the registration of old people’s homes and other residential homes?
Mr. St. John-Stevas No, I cannot. No such guarantee has been given. No Government could promise any other Government unlimited time for a measure in this House. What my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made clear is that if a request for amendment of the Canadian constitution is received we shall act in accordance with precedent and respond to it. But it must be clear that the progress and implementation of any such request must depend upon the general state of business in the House. That is why I have made it clear that the earlier that request is received the more likely it is that it can be dealt with in this Session.
Mr. Peter Hardy (Rother Valley) Would the Leader of the House agree that his answer to the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) and the Prime Minister’s answers earlier this afternoon justify our assuming that no decision will be made in regard to the MacGregor report until the matter has been fully considered in the House? May we therefore have his assurance that every hon. Member will receive details of Mr. MacGregor’s proposals in order that, in the first week back after the recess, we shall have an opportunity to discuss those proposals and also the astonishing situation in regard to local government?
Mr. St. John-Stevas I do not know whether one can draw the conclusions that the hon. Gentleman has from what the Prime Minister has said, but I believe that it is extremely important that a statement of Government attitude on the report should be made to the House after we have received the report and after we have had an opportunity to study it. Whatever proposals are put forward by the Government must be debated in the House.
Mr. Alfred Dubs (Battersea, South) Is the Leader of the House aware that there is great concern about the Government’s proposals on nationality? Can he tell the House when the nationality Bill is to be published? May I urge him to allow a decent interval between publication and Second Reading, so that what will be a very complicated measure can be fully considered by all those concerned?
Mr. St. John-Stevas That is a perfectly reasonable request. I inquired only this morning about the state of the Bill. It is not policy difficulties that are holding up the Bill. It is the drafting of what is a complicated measure. I should like to see it published before the recess. I fear that it may be slightly later than that, but certainly it will be at the earliest possible opportunity. I will pursue the matter again as a result of what the hon. Gentleman said. There must be a reasonable interval of time, to give hon. Members an opportunity to consider it.
Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdare) In view of fact that major Government policies are being made and dealt with in written answers, may we next week have a Government statement about their policy on statements to the House? With regard to the Dublin talks, is it right that when there are hon. Members representing constituencies in Northern Ireland, and when Northern Ireland was discussed in those bilateral talks, the House should not know what is happening, while Members of the Dail are having a debate today? That cannot be right.
Mr. St. John-Stevas Judging from the reports of the debate in the Dail, I do not know that those Members are particularly well informed about what took place at the 1081 Dublin summit. But the text of the communiqué has been published. It is there for everyone to read. I reiterate that of course it is the custom of the House that major statements of policy are made to the House, when it is sitting. But this was not other than a routine meeting between Heads of State. I have pointed out that on all the previous meetings there was no statement, and on most of the bilateral meetings that have taken place between other members of the European Community and ourselves there was no statement, either.
Mr. Allen McKay (Penistone) Do not I take it from the right hon. Gentleman’s reply on the MacGregor report that every hon. Member will be supplied with a copy? May I also take it that there will be a statement next week from the Secretary of State for Industry regarding the situation, and that nothing in the MacGregor report will be implemented until the report has been fully debated on the Floor of the House?
Mr. St. John-Stevas I am afraid that I cannot give the hon. Gentleman all the assurances that he requires. I certainly agree that we must do all that we can to make the report widely available. I will see how that can be done for the convenience of hon. Members. Once the Government have had time to consider the report and to make assessments, there will be a statement to the House, and I would presume that at some stage we would have a debate on the subject.
Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley) In view of the Prime Minister’s obduracy in not making a statement, will the right hon. Gentleman at least ensure that the report of the debate in the Dail on the Dublin meeting is placed in the Library, so that we may see the kind of debate that ensues there, even if it does not take place here?
Secondly, may we have, early in the new year, a debate on defence, on the decision on the cruise and Trident missiles—a decision that is deeply opposed by many hon. Members on these Benches [Interruption.] It is opposed in the Labour Party outside by massive majorities. We would wish to congratulate those members in the East and West Midlands regions of UCATT—the builders’ union—on expressing total opposition to work taking place on cruise missile sites.
Mr. St. John-Stevas I do not think that we can have a debate on defence next week, although it may be relevant. With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I am dealing with next week’s business, not with business after the recess. Defence is a matter of great importance and there is a variety of views in different parts of the House—and, indeed a variety of views on the hon. Gentleman’s side of the House.
With regard to what I suppose is the Hansard of the Dail, that is not a publication to which I regularly subscribe, but I shall try to get hold of a copy of the relevant debate and place it in the Library. I hope, however, in the interests of public expenditure, that that will not constitute a precedent.
Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire) On the question of the Scottish colleges of education, will the Leader of the House bear in mind that the Government were not merely defeated in the Scottish Grand Committee, but absolutely hammered by 40 votes to none? In view of that humiliating and unprecedented defeat, will he insure that the Secretary of State for Scotland does the 1082 only decent thing left for him to do and makes a statement to the House next week saying that he is very sorry and that he will scrap his proposals to merge Craiglockhart and to close down Callendar Park and Hamilton colleges?
Mr. St. John-Stevas I am afraid that I cannot give that undertaking, but I shall discuss the matter of the education colleges with my right hon. Friend I have given an undertaking to that effect. Meanwhile, I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his graphic account of the proceedings in the Scottish Grand Committee. After listening to his account, I almost felt that I had been present.