UK, HC, “Business of the House”, vol 16 (1982), cols 1002-1008
By: UK (House of Commons)
Citation: UK, HC, “Business of the House“, vol 16 (1982), cols 1002-1008.
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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) The business for next week will be as follows:
MONDAY 1 FEBRUARY—A debate on the first report from the Select Committee on Energy, Session 1980–81, on the new nuclear power programme, House of Commons Paper No. 114, and the relevant Government observations, Cmnd. 8317.
TUESDAY 2 FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Coal Industry Bill.
Remaining stages of the New Towns Bill.
Motion on the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975.
WEDNESDAY 3 FEBRUARY—Remaining stages of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.
Motion on the Electricity Service (Finance) (Northern Ireland) Order.
The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed Private Business for consideration at 7 o’clock.
THURSDAY 4 FEBRUARY—Supply (11th allotted day): There will be a debate on an Opposition Motion on the need to improve the lot of the elderly.
FRIDAY 5 FEBRUARY—Private Members’ Bills.
MONDAY 8 FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Employment Bill.
Mr. Foot Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House when the Government expect to bring forward legislation to assist the Greater London Council with the problems that arise from the court judgment which interferes with the policies of providing for the transport needs of elderly people? It would be more helpful than the legislation that the Government propose for Monday week—the so-called misnamed Employment Bill, which is another vicious Bill to attack the trade unions. We had hoped that the Government would have come to their senses, even at this late hour, and would have tried to set aside that and all kindred measures.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider it deplorable that the Government are cutting the standard of living of some of the poorest people in the country, including pensioners? There was some discussion a few moments ago about the cuts that are being imposed on the unemployed—cuts that are fiercer than anything that has been done for a long time. We believe that the Government should have provided the time that the Opposition are providing on Thursday for discussion of that essential subject.
Mr. Pym Regarding the Bill relating to London Transport, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State told the House last week that legislation is being prepared on certain aspects of the matter. The Bill will be introduced as soon as it is ready.
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the Employment Bill is the culmination of a process of discussion, involving a Green Paper last year and a White Paper in the autumn. The Bill has been published today and it will be given a Second Reading on Monday week.
As the right hon. Gentleman said, the Opposition have chosen to debate next Thursday one aspect of social 1003 security benefits. Of course, there will be other opportunities later in the year—at Budget time and later—when other aspects can be debated.
Several Hon. Members rose—
Mr. Speaker Order. Before I call any other hon. Member, I make an appeal to the House. Many hon. Members hope to participate in the main debate, so I hope that hon. Members will ask only essential business questions.
Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South) In view of the massive amount of detail that is involved in Tuesday’s motion regarding House of Commons disqualification, will the Leader of the House see whether he can place in the Vote Office, or render otherwise available, an explanatory note showing the origin of the proposed changes so that their nature is easily apprehensible by hon. Members?
Mr. Pym The origin lies in the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975, but I shall certainly consider the right hon. Gentleman’s representation.
Sir William Clark (Croydon, South) Will we have time before the Budget to debate the Scott report, which will affect the country’s finances, and have the Government yet reached a decision on it?
Mr. Pym The Government have not yet reached a decision. It is unlikely that we shall debate the matter before the Budget. I am aware of my hon. Friend’s interest in the subject and I have it in mind.
Mr. George Foulkes (South Ayrshire) Is the Leader of the House aware that we have been waiting for some time for an announcement about an increase in the death grant? Is he further aware that I and other hon. Members were promised an announcement before Christmas? That promise was broken by the Government. Will the right hon. Gentleman give a clear indication whether we shall have an announcement before the debate on the elderly next Thursday?
Will the Leader of the House further state, in the light of the way in which the Solicitor-General for Scotland resigned over the issue of a statement in the press before he made a statement in the House, how the statement on the front page of The Guardian today got there, and whether he will be looking into the matter? That article contains a clear unequivocal statement, before a statement has been made to the House, of what will happen to the death grant.
Mr. Pym I do not know how any story gets on to the front page of The Guardian. There is nothing for me to look into there. I shall consult my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services about the matter that the hon. Gentleman has raised. Obviously, the hon. Gentleman may have an opportunity to raise the matter when we discuss the Bill tomorrow.
Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge) In view of the recent report that three people out of 10 in this country cannot do simple sums and that a large majority cannot even read a railway timetable, does not my right hon. Friend consider that time should be found to debate education next week, and in particular for a return to the teaching of the three Rs in schools?
Mr. Pym The House may be able to find an opportunity to debate education soon, although I do not think that such a debate is likely to have an immediate effect on the capabilities of most of the pupils. Nor, unfortunately, do I believe that the ability to read a railway timetable will be particularly helpful today.
Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle) Will the Leader of the House consider arranging an emergency debate on law and order? I know that we have had one recently, but there is now a crisis facing police authorities throughout the country. They are being asked by the Government to make swingeing cuts in their budgets—in some cases, up to more than 30 per cent. For example, Merseyside has been asked to make a cut of 19 per cent. in its police budget. Is not that ridiculous from a party that claims to be the party of law and order? Is not search and detection, for which we need policemen and police budgets, a greater deterrent to crime than severity of punishment?
Mr. Pym I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s remarks, which I think are extraordinarily unhelpful. I do not intend to find time for a debate on the subject in the near future. There are other ways in which it could be raised if certain hon. Members so decided.
Mr. John Wells (Maidstone) Will my right hon. Friend find time in the near future for a debate on the problems of the gipsy and caravan-dwelling population, for two reasons? First, it is an unsuitable subject for an Adjournment debate, because legislation is required. Secondly, the present unsatisfactory position occurs because the present legislation was Private Member’s legislation, and we need a Government statement and a Government Bill.
Mr. Pym I cannot find time in the near future, but I can assure my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is aware of the problems to which he refers, and they are very much in his mind.
Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) Is the Leader of the House aware, with respect to the London Transport bill, that because of the combined effects of the fiduciary duty to ratepayers and the Secretary of State’s more recent clawback requirements it may be necessary for the Greater London Council, in order to keep within the law, to put another 50 per cent. on fares in the summer, thus trebling the present fares, unless legislation permits it to do otherwise? Will the right hon. Gentleman please look into the matter and pass it to the Secretary of State for the Environment, to ensure that the long title of the Bill enables the Government to make it a part of the forthcoming legislation?
Mr. Pym I shall convey what the hon. Gentleman has said to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, who has been helpful in telling the House about the proposed legislation. I think that I am right in saying that in the same statement my right hon. Friend said that in his view it was unnecessary for there to be a further rise in fares this summer.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton (Edinburgh, West) Will my right hon. Friend consider having a foreign affairs debate, in which hon. Members who are interested in the changing situation in Poland can take part?
Mr. Pym I was glad to be able to arrange a foreign affairs debate before Christmas, when that subject was 1005 covered. I know that for various reasons it was, unfortunately, truncated. I do not think that there will be another opportunity in Government time in the near future, but the anxieties about Poland and the importance of that issue to the Western world are clear to every hon. Member.
Mr. Donald Coleman (Neath) I should like to return the right hon. Gentleman to the question of the death grant and to refer him to early-day motion 181. That this House calls upon her Majesty’s Government, without delay, to raise the death grants substantially to meet the continuing high level of inflation which the Government’s policies have failed to reverse. In view of the concern that has long been felt in the House and outside about this problem and its effect upon people, will the right hon. Gentleman please arrange for a statement next week, before the date on Thursday, by the Minister concerned?
Mr. Pym I cannot promise a statement, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the matter is under active consideration by Ministers.
Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) I make no apology for returning to a matter which I raised with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister a short time ago. When will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade or my hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Trade make a statement about the Council of Ministers discussions on 25 January about the multi-fibre arrangement and the bilateral agreements that go with it, bearing in mind that Carrington Viyella has just closed two mills in Lancashire, making about 700 people redundant—the mills are closed for ever—and that Tootal Limited has closed a mill at Strines, making about 600 people redundant? Will my right hon. Friend tell the Government of the desire of the House to have an expression of their position on the bilateral agreements and the MFA, bearing in mind the direct employment implications?
Mr. Pym My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and other Ministers have been forthcoming in keeping the House informed about the development of the negotiations. My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal referred to them yesterday. There is to be another meeting of the Ministers concerned in a fortnight. There will probably not be an occasion or a statement before then, but I shall have it in mind after the next round of the negotiations.
Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West) I wish to draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 188, in the name of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley).
[That this House calls on the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to set up a public sworn judicial enquiry into the ‘Kincora House Scandal’ as only by this action can justice be done and be seen to be done.]
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is necessary that there be a full, open public inquiry into the case, which is causing grave concern in Northern Ireland? In the absence of a full public debate on the subject, the hon. Member for Antrim, North may be able to allege that allegations already made in the Press in Ireland and elsewhere are being used as a smear campaign. Therefore, in everyone’s interest, will the Leader of the House agree to a debate on the subject?
Mr. Pym I should have difficulty in finding Government time for such a debate, but I shall convey to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the hon. Gentleman has said.
Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak) Does my right hon. Friend agree that law and order was one of the most important issues facing the country at the last general election? Now that we have the new grant-related estimate, does he accept that many areas, such as the West Midlands, are gravely concerned about the possibility of a reduction of 1, 000 in police numbers and that our inner areas are at the same risk as those in London. Therefore, if my right hon. Friend cannot find time for a debate, will he at least see that an early statement is made, so that we keep the essential promise that law and order will remain paramount and that the police force will not be weakened, whatever other sacrifices are made?
Mr. Pym I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that for this Government law and order remains an extremely important issue. We know that the British people as a whole are very keen that it should be maintained at all costs. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is determined that the improvement in the size of the police force and the other ways in which we are battling shall continue, and it is not in his mind that that improvement should be lessened in any way.
Several Hon. Members rose—
Mr. Speaker Order. I shall call those hon. Members who have been rising all the time, but I hope that the House will agree with my confining myself to those hon. Members, so that we can then move on.
Mr. Les Huckfield (Nuneaton) Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 164, signed by 56 of my hon. Friends?
[That this House condemns the British Railways Board for its failure to honour the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service agreement to pay all footplate staffs a three per cent. increase from January 1982; deplores its tactics in deliberately breaking off productivity negotiations and then blaming ASLEF; declares its total opposition to the railway management’s attempts to divide the railway trade unions by offering to pay members of the National Union of Railwaymen but not ASLEF; and calls for the immediate payment of the agreed three per cent. as the best means of settling the present dispute.]
Has he also seen early-day motion 185, signed by 23 of my hon. Friends?
[That this House, like the General Council of the Trades Union Congress and the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, endorses the statement of Mr. Len Murray that British Railways should forthwith honour its signed agreement, which is specific and unconditional, to pay the footplatemen the three per cent. balance of the pay increase which it was agreed last August should be paid to all British Railways employees; believes that the British Railways Board is at fault in failing to pay the balance of the pay award, and in failing to use established machinery to find acceptable methods of improving productivity machinery which provides.full scope for negotiations on all issues; and, if those do not produce an agreement to involve independent arbitration.]
1007 Both motions are about the rail dispute. As it appears that the dispute could now be about to enter its third week, do the Government intend to provide any time for a debate on it?
Mr. Pym No, Sir—not at the moment, at any rate.
Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline) Will the Leader of the House take some time to study the Official Report of the proceedings in the Standing Committee dealing with the Oil and Gas (Enterprise) Bill? If he studies the Official Report of this morning’s sitting he will see that progress is likely to be frustrated by the absence of information which should be forthcoming from the Secretary of State for Energy—namely, the memorandum and articles of association of the proposed company, Britoil. Will he prevail on the Secretary of State for Energy to make those papers available to the Committee as expeditiously as possible, so that we can make progress?
Mr. Pym I am not aware of what happened in that Committee this morning. It is not normal for the Leader of the House to answer questions about a Committee that is sitting, but I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will note what the hon. Gentleman said.
Mr. Alfred Dubs (Battersea, South) When will the Second Reading of the Canada Bill take place?
Mr. Pym As soon as I think that the circumstances are right for me to arrange that business. Clearly, that position has not yet arisen.
Mr. Guy Barnett (Greenwich) Has the right hon. Gentleman’s attention been drawn to Early-Day motion 178?
[That this House deplores the decision announced by the Under Secretary for Health and Social Services to close the School for Dental Therapists in 1983; deplores the unprecedented behaviour of the honourable Gentleman in announcing the decision during his reply to an adjournment debate on the future of the school on 21st January; and calls on the Secretary of State to consider the arguments advanced in the debate before coming to a final decision, and, when he has made it, to make an oral statement to the House.]
What is the right hon. Gentleman’s comment about the Government’s announcement of the closure in response to an Adjournment debate? Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise the need for the Secretary of State responsible to make a statement about it in the House, so that he may be questioned on it?
Mr. Pym I do not know that it would now be appropriate for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services to make a statement. The hon. Gentleman might wish to raise the matter in an Adjournment debate or in some other way.
Mr. Robert Parry (Liverpool, Scotland Exchange) When does the Leader of the House expect the House to debate the White Paper on racial disadvantage? Is he aware that only yesterday dozens of people, including many young coloured people, were evicted from Liverpool town hall by the police for opposing massive cuts in voluntary organisation funds? Does he recall the reasons for the riots in Toxteth?
Mr. Pym There have been some opportunities already this Session for that subject to be raised. I cannot see my way clear at present to find time for another such debate, but I shall keep the hon. Gentleman’s representations in mind.
Mr. John Silkin (Deptford) I do not think that the Leader of the House fully understood what my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Barnett) was talking about. Is he aware that hon. Members would be grateful if he would look into the matter? A statement on Government policy was made at the end of an Adjournment debate initiated by my hon. Friend. If the right hon. Gentleman examines the matter, he may find that this is a practice that he would not wish to see continue.
Mr. Pym Yes, I am of course prepared to look into the matter.