The business for next week will be as follows:
MONDAY, 4TH FEBRUARY—Debate on a motion to take note of the 11th Report of the Criminal Law Revision Committee on Evidence (Command No. 4991).
Consideration of the Legal Aid Bill [Lords], which is a consolidation measure.
WEDNESDAY 6TH FEBRUARY —Debate on the Industrial and Economic Situation, which will be continued on the following day.
THURSDAY 7TH FEBRUARY —Supply (11th Allotted Day).
Continuation of debate on the Industrial and Economic Situation.
FRIDAY 8TH FEBRUARY —Private Members' Bills.
MONDAY 11TH FEBRUARY —Until seven o'clock, Private Members' motions.
Afterwards, remaining stages of the Pensions (Increase) Bill and of the International Organisations (Land) Bill.
In view of the great and continuing importance of the subject just raised during Questions to the Prime Minister, will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to do his best to ensure that, if there are any developments either in the mining situation or in the discussions with the CBI and TUC, Government statements are made next week? Secondly, is the right hon. Gentleman in a position to inform the House of the results of his review of the present state of the Emergency Regulations and is it his intention in the near future, and if so when, to propose a renewal of the regulations to the House?
Thirdly, on an entirely different subject of concern to both sides of the House, in view of the importance of the situation this year and particularly the anxieties about dairying, will the right hon. Gentleman consider whether there should be a debate on agriculture before the price review instead of after it?
I should like to consider what the right hon. Gentleman said on the last point. I am well aware of the anxiety which exists, particularly in the dairy industry.
If it became necessary, the Emergency Regulations would be laid before both Houses of Parliament on 8th February and must be affirmed on or before Thursday, 14th February. There would therefore be a suitable time for the Proclamation to be declared, I gather, to suit the convenience of hon. Members.
In answer to the right hon. Gentleman's first question I confirm that if there are developments they will be made known to the House.
As it is clear that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is well aware of the serious situation facing many dairy farmers, surely it is more important to have the announcement of the review than to have yet another debate before that event? Will my right hon. Friend say when that review will be coming forward?
I gather that the review is making progress, but I do not expect any statement in the next week or two. I certainly agree that the statement on the review should not be held up pending the debate.
I think it would be more for the convenience of the House if the statement awaited the further talks that are to take place. I think that my right hon. Friend will make a statement next week.
Will my right hon. Friend ask the Secretary of State for Employment to hold a thorough investigation into the way in which the ballot is being conducted by the National Union of Mineworkers today and tomorrow, as there seem to be grave doubts, certainly in my mind, whether the ballot is being held in secret? Evidence is coming forward which will be confirmed tomorrow that it is not a secret ballot in any sense of the word. Will the Leader of the House ask his right hon. Friend to make a statement?
I will convey my hon. Friend's remarks to my right hon. Friend, but at the moment I have no evidence of malpractice of this kind. If any hon. Member has received allegations from miners who are his constituents and they can be substantiated, I am sure he will want to draw the attention of the union to them, and I am confident that the union would want to investigate any complaint that its members were not able to record their vote in a proper manner.
On a point of order. It seemed to me that the answer just given by the Leader of the House was in typewritten form. Does not that suggest that there was some collusion between the questioner, who sat behind him, and the Leader of the House? If that is so, is that not a disgraceful abuse of parliamentary practice?
Further to that point of order. Will it be in order for somebody today to ask for an analysis of the way in which the ballot is being carried out and whether there are two boxes? It is no good just answering the question. I want an analysis in every mining area of how the ballot is being carried out.
—when he said that he was considering the withdrawal of national insurance benefits from persons taking part in an unjust strike. Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Prime Minister to explain which criteria are to be employed in deciding whether a strike is unjust and who is to make that decision?
May I call the attention of the Leader of the House to the disgraceful situation that has arisen on the setting up of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs? Has he not repeatedly stated in the House that the Select Committee was at the stage of selecting names of members to serve on the Committee, yet today we are no further forward? If the Select Committee is not set up between now and next Thursday, will the Leader of the House make a statement telling us what is holding it up?
I hope that the hon. Gentleman has been making his own inquiries on what has held up the selection of the committee. As far as I am concerned, there is no reason why it should not be set up straight away.
Will my right hon. Friend say whether there is yet any news on the Green Paper on the future structure of companies with special reference to the two-tier structure and workers' participation? Will he further say whether it is proposed to have a debate on planning procedures following the interesting and evocative report of the committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Dobry, Q.C.?
Now that the case against the 11 councillors at Clay Cross is no longer sub judice, will the right hon. Gentleman give us time to consider Motion No. 116? If not, will he ask his right hon. Friend to make a statement in the House next week on this important issue?
[That this House believes that the Secretary of State for the Environment has been grossly negligent in the way he has handled the refusal of Clay Cross UDC to implement the Housing Finance Act of 1972; suggests that the Minister should have sent in the Housing Commission in July 1972 as requested by the Council at Clay Cross; considers that as a consequence of his refusal to act he has penalised the 11 members of Clay Cross Council for something that the Secretary of State should have done in the first place; and believes that the Minister should be compelled to make a statement in the House and apologise to the 11 members for his neglect.]
It is common practice to have some things written, but I will not read out for the benefit of the hon. Gentleman what is written down in these notes because he might not like it very much. I will consult my right hon. Friend, but I can hold out no hope.
Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that next week his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will make a statement upon the shooting by the Army in his own home last Saturday night of ex-Sergeant William Black of Saintfield, County Down, who was a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment. This has caused great feeling in Northern Ireland.
That is a serious allegation. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) has stated categorically that British Intelligence—for which the House is responsible—is out to kill him. He repeats that allegation, in support of which he provides no evidence. He now says that the British Army—for which the House is responsible—is killing people indiscriminately. Is it not important that this matter should be dealt with in the House and that allegations should be investigated? Is not this sort of allegation making the problem of Northern Ireland a good deal worse?
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) yesterday sought to move the Adjournment of the House and said that he had evidence of ballot rigging in the NUM. The hon. Gentleman has not substantiated that allegation today, and indeed the Leader of the House has confirmed that to date he has received no evidence. Why has he not received this evidence from the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West? Will the right hon. Gentleman provide an early opportunity for us to debate this matter, and will he say whether, and when, he will get that evidence from the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West which that hon. Member says he possesses?
Will the Leader of the House draw the attention of the Secretary of State for Employment to the fact that there appear to have been no observers present during the ballot and that the National Coal Board has not been invited—nor were any other interested parties—to see whether there has been a secret ballot? How are we to decide whether the ballot has been properly conducted?
In the peradventure of something happening in the next few days, with the possibility of this crisis being resolved and the Prime Minister seeing good sense, will the Leader of the House be prepared to consider making arrangements for a proper debate on this subject rather than merely arranging for a statement to be made? Will the right hon. Gentleman also take the opportunity, the next time he appears at the Government Dispatch Box, to explain to the House of Commons how he had a typewritten answer to a heinous question from one of his hon. Friends and whether he informed the Speaker? If he did not have such a typewritten, ready-made answer, will he at the same time condemn what his hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) said about the NUM ballot, because that sort of statement can only inflame the situation in the coalfields and make no contribution whatever to industrial peace?
The House will realise that I have a good many typewritten notes on a number of matters which possibly might be raised in business questions. Included in them are subjects of controversy, which perhaps hon. Members are not given much chance to raise in the House at other times. I have learned over the years that occasionally matters are raised in business questions which are not directly concerned with business. The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) will know all about that.
In view of what has just been said by the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy), may I tell the House that I have had no conversations with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. Yesterday I tried to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, on the question which I put to my right hon. Friend a little earlier, but by an unfortunate misunderstanding my request was not allowed. However, I was able to put the substance of the matter to the House, as can be seen from yesterday's HANSARD. It is surely understandable that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has read HANSARD, as I am sure has every other hon. Member.
Does my right hon. Friend realise that there is great concern on both sides of the House about the impending choice of nuclear reactors for the Central Electricity Generating Board? Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that a debate on this important matter will take place as soon as possible, and certainly before any decision is taken?
Yes, I can give my hon. Friend and the House that assurance. I understand that the Select Committee report is likely to be published in the near future. I think that it would be as well for hon. Members to have that report in their hands before we have a debate, but I hope to arrange the debate in about a fortnight's time.
The hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Swain) must not make imputations of that sort. If it is a point of order, I shall deal with it when we have concluded business questions.
Has my right hon. Friend seen the all-party motion on the Order Paper about the unparliamentary behaviour of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley)? In view of the hon. Member's scandalous question earlier, will the Leader of the House give us an opportunity to show our displeasure about this hon. Member and his antics?
[That this House deplores the unparliamentary behaviour of the honourable Member for North Antrim in the Ulster Assembly on 22nd January 1974; and expresses its deepest displeasure.]
Will my right hon. Friend make an early statement on picketing in view of the evidence that picketing has already taken place illegally and that Communist militant leaders in the NUM have helped to organise one thousand flying squad pickets who are ready to disrupt industrial relations even further?
When will the House be given an opportunity to debate and decide upon the Relativities Report? Surely it represents a substantial alteration to the code under stage 3 which this House has approved if the Government decide to put forward the Relativities Report as part of their counter-inflation policy.
Will you, Mr. Speaker, give a ruling on the statement made by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) regarding his accusation of twisting in the ballot which is now taking place? I think you will agree that to hide behind the privileges of this House is a cowardly way to go about the matter. To substantiate the point he raised, will you give a ruling that he should either name his informant or that he should not be allowed to raise these matters in the House?
I have not yet had time to study what was said today, but I have read what was said yesterday. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) said that he wished the House to debate the lack of secrecy during the miners' ballot. I am confident that that does not raise any question of order.
I have a copy of yesterday's HANSARD, and the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) said that the question had come to his notice "this morning", meaning yesterday morning. The hon. Gentleman is reported at the bottom of column 455 to have said that he had got the information just after 12 o'clock—in other words just after the hour at which he had to give you notice, Mr. Speaker—and he went on to indicate that he would seek to raise the matter again today. Presumably he has not done that. Why has he not done it? He said that he had the evidence. Did the hon. Gentleman raise the matter with you before 12 o'clock today?
Order. That is not a matter of order. I have considered what the hon. Gentleman for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Swain) said. That is the only matter which can be raised as a question of order for the Chair. I have ruled that there is no point of order arising on it, and that is the end of the matter.