UK, HC, “Business of the House”, vol 17 (1982), cols 541-546

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Date: 1982-02-04
By: UK (House of Commons)
Citation: UK, HC, “Business of the House“, vol 17 (1982), cols 541-546.
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Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale) Will the leader of the House state the business for next week?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Francis Pym) Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:
Monday 8 February—Second Reading of the Employment Bill.

Tuesday 9 February—Second Reading of the Transport Bill.

Wednesday 10 February—Motions on the Rate Support Grant (Scotland) Order and on the Housing Support Grant (Scotland) Orders. Second Reading of the Harbours (Scotland) Bill [Lords].

Thursday 11 February—Supply (12th Allotted Day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion on overseas development.

Friday 12 February—Private Members’ Bills.

Monday 15 February—Private Members’ motions until seven o’clock. Afterwards, remaining stages of the Hops Marketing Bill [Lords]. A debate on the first report from the Select Committee on Procedure (Supply), Session 1980–81, House of Commons Paper No. 118.

Mr. Foot We all know that the right hon. Gentleman is partly employed on co-ordinating ministerial speeches, and we do not wish to call upon him all the time, but may I put two matters to him? Is he yet in a position to say when the Government will introduce the GLC legislation that they have promised and that is necessary as a result of the House of Lords decision? We wish to ensure that provision is made for elderly people who wish to travel. We hope that that legislation will be introduced very soon.
On Monday the Employment Bill will receive its Second Reading. Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the Committee stage is debated on the Floor of the House? He will be well aware that the Labour Party regards the Bill as a vicious attack on the rights of trade unionists and trade unions, and that we intend to do everything in our power to resist it in the House and to fight it generally. We make it clear that we shall repeal the legislation, just as we repealed the Industrial Relations Act 1971. When that was introduced, we said that we would repeal it, and we shall also repeal this legislation. It would be very much better if the Government withdrew the Bill right now.

Mr. Pym The right hon. Gentleman and the Labour Government repealed the Industrial Relations Act 1971 with disastrous results. I have heard his representations, but the Government intend that the Bill should be dealt with in Committee in the normal way and in exactly the same way as the Labour Government dealt with similar Bills. Therefore, I am sorry to disappoint the right hon. Gentleman about that.
I agree that the right hon. Gentleman’s first point is important. I cannot give him a date for the introduction of the Bill, but we have regard for the elderly in London who wish to travel and that is why we have committed ourselves to legislating. We shall introduce the Bill as soon as it is ready.

Several Hon. Members rose—
Mr. Speaker Order. I appeal to
hon. Members to remember that this is a Supply day. I hope that questions on the business of the House will be as brief as possible.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds) Given the vital importance of events in Poland, the decisions of NATO, and the differences between the United States of America and Europe on this matter, will my right hon. Friend give the House an early opportunity to debate the issue? If he cannot give a commitment about having a full debate in the near future, will he at least give an assurance that the House will be kept fully informed, through ministerial statements, about NATO decisions and related matters of disarmament?
Mr. Pym I certainly intend to keep the House fully informed on such matters, and so far the Government have done that. I should like to see such a debate in due course. However, an early date is unlikely. I agree about the importance of the matter, and I look forward to such a debate when the opportunity arises.
Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles) In order to assist the House in advance of the debate on the Employment Bill, will the right hon. Gentleman place in the Library an analysis of those items in the previous Bill that were debated in the House last Session, and that Conservative Members voted against when they were proposed by this Bench?
Mr.Pym The right hon. Gentleman could acquire that information by some other means.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian) The right hon. Gentleman will have heard the answer that the Prime Minister gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) and will have noticed her failure to answer the courteous question of which I gave her notice. Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that some statement should be made about the desperate situation of Leyland Vehicles in Lancashire and Bathgate? At present many of my elderly constituents face the prospect of being carried out of their factory because the court order has gone against them. That has happened in an area with an unemployment rate of 29 per cent.
Mr. Pym I note those representations. Sir Michael Edwardes met the unions yesterday. Obviously the situation at Leyland Vehicles is a matter of concern. I cannot provide parliamentary time for a debate, but I shall certainly convey those representations to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.
Sir Anthony Kershaw (Stroud) When will my right hon. Friend bring the Canada Bill before the House?
Mr. Pym I hope to be able to make an announcement about that in the near future, in a business statement.
Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, Central) As the Government have in their possession the working party report on alternative means of financing the National Health Service, and as a report appeared in The Times on 28 January which specifically stated that the Government had abandoned all hope of financing it through compulsory insurance, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a statement to be made at the earliest opportunity on this important matter?
Mr. Pym The Government are considering that important subject. In due course, by one means or another, the House will be made aware of our conclusions.
Sir William Clark (Croydon, South) As my right hon. Friend said last week that we should not have an opportunity to debate the Scott report before the Budget, and as there are widespread reports in the press today that the Government have reached a decision on the report, will my right hon. Friend give the House a categoric assurance that those reports are unfounded, that the Government have not yet made a decision and that the House will debate the Scott report before a decision is taken about it and index-linked pensions, which give preferential treatment to only one section of the community?
Mr. Pym I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. No conclusions have yet been reached. My hon. Friend and the House know what an extremely difficult area this is. The possibility of making a change raises far-reaching issues and implications.
The House must have the opportunity to debate this matter. In the meantime, I can assure the House that no decision has been made.

Mr. Les Huckfield (Nuneaton) Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the rail dispute will shortly be entering its fifth week? Is it not almost without precedent that so far we have not had a statement, a private notice question, or a debate on the matter? Since the only misguided interventions that the Secretary of State for Transport sees fit to make are made outside the House, is it not about time that we had at least one of those options?
Mr. Pym The only thing that would be helpful is for the dispute to end. In the meantime, I do not consider that a debate would help.
Mr. Anthony Nelson (Chichester) Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that, despite the change in ministerial responsibilities at the Ministry of Defence, the practice of having three separate Supply days to debate each of the three Services will be continued, as I am sure that a large number of Members on both sides of the House would wish to express their concern on all aspects of defence?
Mr. Pym There is no proposal before the House to alter that practice, but the subject is relevant to the debate on procedure that we are to have on Monday. This subject is included in the report of the Select Committee and various suggestions have been made. No doubt other suggestions will be made during the debate. In the meantime, there is no intention of altering what has been a long-established practice of the House.
Mr. George Foulkes (South Ayrshire) Is the Leader of the House aware that on 22 December the Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security said that a statement about an increase in the death grant would be made shortly after the Christmas Recess? Can the Leader of the House tell us why there has been no statement? Will such a statement be made, either this afternoon in the debate on the elderly, or tomorrow morning, when the House debates the Private Member’s Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross)?
Mr. Pym Although I appreciate that point, I have to disappoint the hon. Gentleman. There will not be a statement this afternoon as the matter is still under consideration. However disappointing that may be, the Government are not yet in a position to announce their conclusions. In due course, they most certainly will.
Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington) The Scottish Grand Committee is shortly to meet in Edinburgh. Can arrangements now be made for the Northern Ireland Committee to meet in Belfast?
Mr. Pym I think not. The Scottish Grand Committee meeting in Edinburgh is an experiment which, after experience, the House may or may not decide to continue. That is as far as it should go for the moment. I do not think that the House would wish it to go further yet.
Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley) May we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Social Services on the letter sent to thousands of people in various regions from the local Department of Health and Social Security offices requesting them to attend a local office for an interview about their difficulties in finding jobs? Since there are 4,000 people chasing 80 jobs in Keighley, those long-term unemployed who are receiving supplementary benefit regard that letter as a continuing and outrageous insult. May we have a statement to the effect that the letter will be withdrawn immediately?
Mr. Pym The hon. Gentleman’s remarks do not make a prima facie case for a statement. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services has no doubt heard the hon. Gentleman and I shall consult him.
Mr. John G. Blackburn (Dudley, West) Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is six years since the House debated the arts? Bearing in mind their value to the public and tourism, will he give serious consideration to finding time for a major debate on the arts?
Mr. Pym I am surprised to hear what my hon. Friend says, because I should have thought that my predecessor would have had reason to arrange such a debate. Although I do not have the interest in the arts that my predecessor has, I should like the House to debate the subject. Unfortunately, we do not have enough time at present. Perhaps my hon. Friend can find another way to raise the subject.
Mr. Ian Mikardo (Bethnal Green and Bow) Can the Leader of the House find a couple of minutes next week to explain to his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that the proceedings of a public sitting of a Select Committee with the room half filled with journalists and with the BBC recording the proceedings are not precisely confidential?
Mr. Pym I take note of the hon. Gentleman’s remarks.
Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham) As there is great interest in the arts, will my right hon. Friend give sympathetic further consideration to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, West (Mr. Blackburn)? Is he aware that more people visit the theatre each year than watch football matches? The Conservative Government have a good record in the arts.
Mr. Pym I agree with my hon. Friend. The arts are enjoyed more and more without a debate in the House. Obviously it would be useful to find time for a debate. I hope that my hon. Friend will be successful in a ballot or that he finds some other means to stage such a debate.
Mr. Laurie Pavitt (Brent, South) Has the Leader of the House had time to study early-day motion 204, which seeks to give justice to people disabled by blindness?
[That this House urges Her Majesty’s Government to introduce a blindness allowance at least equal to the 545mobility allowance; notes that financial hardship of blind persons is intensified as, unlike other sections of the disabled, they do not qualify for invalidity allowances, non-contributory invalidity pension or an attendance allowance unless suffering from a second disability; and notes the success of a recent petition on these matters which attracted half a million signatures]

As the blind suffer more disadvantage than other disabled groups, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services to make a statement in the House to get rid of the anomaly?

Mr. Pym The hon. Gentleman knows that the Government have been as helpful as possible to the blind and have increased some of the facilities and resources available to them. I cannot find time for a special debate, but there are other ways to discuss the subject—for example, when discussing other Bills, including the Finance Bill. The hon. Gentleman must use one of those opportunities.
Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge) Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on education? Is he aware that the National Union of Students has called for a week of disruption in universities, polytechnics and schools? Should not those people, supported by the taxpayer, be working rather than rioting?
Mr. Pym I am against all disruption, but I do not think that I can find time for such a debate in the near future.
Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough) Is the Leader of the House aware that it is now Labour Party policy that there should be ultimate unification of Ireland by consent? Can he find time for a general debate on the Irish question, preferably not tied to any resolution?
Mr. Pym I am in favour of debates on Northern Ireland from time to time; I am sure that they help the House. I note the hon. Gentleman’s remarks about Labour policy on Northern Ireland, which, as in so many other cases, is a contradiction in terms.
Mr. Peter Bottomley (Woolwich, West) I wish to draw my right hon. Friend’s attention to the Prime Minister’s answer to question Q5 last Tuesday about the balance between future increases in the married man’s tax allowance and increases in child benefit over and above the increase in inflation. She said The Government will take account of all publicly expressed views.”—[Official Report, 2 February 1982; Vol. 48, c. 74.] 546 Will my right hon. Friend arrange a debate, either before or preferably during the Budget, so that the House can decide how additional help to families should be given—whether it be to all married people, with or without children and whether or not the spouses are working, or to all families with children?
Mr. Pym I think not. There are many other ways in which my hon. Friend and other hon. Members can make their representations to my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer before 9 March.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) I do not wish to come between the Leader of the House and the Prime Minister, but would it not be appropriate to have a debate in the near future on Government publicity co-ordination so that we may discover why a number of Ministers, including the right hon. Gentleman, are making pessimistic noises about the future of the economy, while the Prime Minister appears to believe that recovery is very much on the way?
Mr. Pym By all means. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is lucky in the ballot.
Mr. John Silkin (Deptford) My right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) asked a question about the Employment Bill. Does the Leader of the House recall that when he was Patronage Secretary he fully supported dealing with the Industrial Relations Bill of 1971 on the Floor of the House? Indeed, I remember him celebrating the Royal Assent with a glass or two of champagne. Why cannot the right hon. Gentleman show the same courtesy to the House and country and have the Employment Bill debated on the Floor of the House?
Mr. Pym I remember the way that that Bill was handled. I note that the right hon. Gentleman and the Labour Government did not follow that practice. The background and circumstances of the Bill to be debated on Monday are not the same, either in character or scope, as the Industrial Relations Bill. We believe that it would be appropriate and right for the House to use its normal procedures for the legislative processes in this case.

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