Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, while these subjects are estimable and of great importance and some have been pressed for by hon. Members in all parts of the House, nevertheless some of them may seem a little unrealistic against the present background? Will he give an assurance, as he was good enough to do before the Christmas Recess, that business can be rapidly changed and, above all, that he agress that the House must be fully seized of all aspects of the industrial situation, changes in the fate of particular industries and their problems, and particularly about progress towards a settlement?
Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware that, in the light of the experience of the past half-hour, it is possible to have debated this subject in the House yesterday and to have the situation completely reversed overnight either by a decision of the Government or by sheer muddle within the Government, which the Prime Minister can no longer control? In these circumstances will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that it will remain fully seized of and in control of all aspects of the industrial situation in our debates next week?
Of course the House will wish to be seized of and take note of all that happens on the industrial front and to debate such events if necessary. It would be a lot better if we were to debate them in a calmer atmosphere than we have had in the past half-hour.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that we have not had a statement on the current railway dispute since 11th December, the day before it started? In view of today's intensification of the dispute and the immense additional hardship and inconvenience being suffered by my constituents and many others, will he bear in mind that we shall expect a statement from the Government at the earliest possible moment next week?
May I ask my right hon. Friend to keep the House and the country informed about the position on the railways? We have heard from a leader of the union about the anger of the rail-waymen. Does my right hon. Friend agree that such anger does not compare with the anger of our commuters who are trying to get to work during a three-day week under shocking conditions?
[That this House being mindful that freedom of the Press is freedom for the public to obtain full information on all issues of public concern, deplores the refusal of the Western Mail, the South Wales Echo and the South Wales Argus to publish an official advertisement from the National Union of Mineworkers and calls upon the newspapers concerned to exercise greater fairness in their presentation of the miners' case.]
This concerns the refusal of certain newspapers in South Wales to publish an official advertisement from the National Union of Mineworkers. In view of the nature of next week's business, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will give us an opportunity to debate this motion and to demand equal rights for mineworkers in the Press?
[That this House regrets the action ordered by the union leaders of ASLEF which has led to disruption of some train services particularly in the London area ; congratulates and thanks British Rail staff who are members of the NUR and the TSSA for their determination to work normally during difficult times when the travelling public are tempted to vent their anger on those who are not involved in the current dispute ; notes that as usual ASLEF militants in the London area are causing the maximum inconvenience to the public ; further notes that many ASLEF members are doing their best to work normally in spite of intimidation and abuse from a small number of militants ; notes the views expressed to the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East, by one ASLEF member that "I have been on the railways for 30 years and am not going to let some jumped-up so-called railway man in South-East London tell me how to drive my train" ; further notes a remark also made to the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East, by an NUR man, in reference to the current ASLEF dispute, that "it is not the men that want to do this, it is the union" ; and hopes that, whilst recognising the special problems which railway modernisation has brought for the drivers, no true railway man will allow himself to be used by those whose interests hardly appear to be connected with developing and extending a modern efficient railway service in Great Britain.]
Can the right hon. Gentleman make a statement about the rearrangement of the Question roster to accommodate Questions from the Department of Energy? Can he tell us what will be the arrangements for Questions which hon. Members have already tabled on energy matters to the Department of Trade and Industry for answer on Monday 21st January and Monday 28th January?
Consultations are in hand aimed at devising a roster to provide a place for energy Questions. I hope that those consultations will take place today. I should like to see the roster published as soon after that as possible. There is the problem of whether we should give priority to the trade and industry Questions already tabled or to the energy Questions already tabled. I hope that this problem can be resolved and that we can meet the wishes of the majority of the House.
Further to that question, can the Leader of the House tell us whether Questions addressed to the Secretary of State for Energy will be answered by a Cabinet Minister, notably himself as Chairman of the Cabinet's Energy Committee, rather than being dealt with by a non-Cabinet Minister, since one of the objects of establishing the Department of Energy was to give a higher status to the problem for the purposes of parliamentary debate and consideration?
Order. I want to get on with the debate. As I have said, I have the names of 50 hon. Members who wish to speak. I must take a moment to say that for the debate on Wednesday 16th January on the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill hon. Members may hand into my office by 9.30 on the morning of Tuesday 15th January their names and the topics which they wish to raise. The ballot will be carried out as on the last occasion. An hon. Member may hand in only his own name and one topic.
The debate on the Second Reading of this Bill is, in the words of Erskine May on page 729 of the 18th Edition,
commensurate with the whole range of administrative policy".
It covers the Votes on Account for both Defence and Civil Services 1974–75, as set out in House of Commons Papers 11 and 44, and the Defence and Civil Supplementary Estimates for 1973–74 set out in House of Commons Papers 45 and 46. It will be in order, on Second Reading, to raise any topic falling within the compass of these Estimates.
I shall put out the result of the ballot later on Tuesday 15th January.