Orders of the Day — Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 10:13 pm on 19th February 1985.

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Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire 10:13 pm, 19th February 1985

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a short business statement. Following the point of order raised by the Opposition today, and after discussions through the usual channels, the business for Wednesday 20 February will now be:

Remaining stages of the London Regional Transport (Amendment) Bill, and of the Trustee Savings Banks Bill.

Motion on the European Community document No. 4421/85 on the milk supplementary levy scheme.

The business on Thursday 21 February will be:

Debate on the Royal Air Force, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Motion on the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984 (Continuance) Order.

The debate on the Rate Limitation (Prescribed Maximum) (Rates) Order has been postponed until Monday 25 February.

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Bethnal Green and Stepney

The House will know that this late night business statement arises out of the incompetence and muddle of the Secretary of State for the Environment, who once again has managed to confuse not only himself but the whole of the House of Commons by the sheer incompetence and maladroitness with which he handles the business affairs of his Department.

Will the Leader of the House convey to his colleague how dissatisfied we are with these constant difficulties that face the House through the sheer continuous incompetence of what was once a great Department of State? I wish also to convey the great dissatisfaction of the Opposition at being forced to make yet again sudden changes in our business and, above all, being forced to have a two-day diet of retrospective legislation put to the House because of the additional incompetence of the Secretary of State for Transport.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I note what the right hon. Gentleman has said. He is a touch less than characteristically generous, because aspects of the order which the Opposition thought gave rise to great difficulties were raised earlier today and we have tried to meet them by the arrangements that I have just put to the House.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that, as it has taken the Government two goes to get a rates order for the House to debate, they will have got it right by Monday, or will it be withdrawn again when yet another error is discovered?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

The hon. Gentleman must learn, like me, to travel hopefully.

Photo of Mr Dave Nellist Mr Dave Nellist , Coventry South East

Now that the Government's fingers in the till have engineered a bit of flexibilitity in this week's business, instead of the business now set down for Thursday, could we not have a discussion of the Prime Minister's statement in answer to the first question in Prime Minister's questions this afternoon when she said that nearly three quarters of youngsters leaving youth training schemes are getting work, since the Department of Employment estimates, on the basis of a survey that covers a few hundred people, that only about 56 per cent. get work? If the youth training scheme is so good, why is the Prime Minister trying to remove from supplementary benefit all 16 and 17-yearolds who refuse to go on training schemes?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I have repeatedly been asked by hon. Members that the debate on the RAF should be held as soon as possible. That is why I am pleased to announce it as Thursday's business.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

Is the Leader of the House aware that it is uncommonly awkward to take the Committee stage of the London Regional Transport (Amendment) Bill tomorrow? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Why? Because I do not think that the Secretary of State can take the excitement. What are the precedents for taking the Committee stage so soon after Second Reading?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I am touched by the solicitude shown by the hon. Member for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. I assure him that what is proposed is with precedent and has inconvenience.

Photo of Robert Wareing Robert Wareing , Liverpool, West Derby

Why are we not taking the opportunity on Thursday to debate the disgrace to our prosperous country of so many old and poor people suffering from hypothermia? Is it not a damned disgrace that we have not had a full debate in Government time on the danger posed to many people as a result of the dreadful policies of this disgraceful Prime Minister?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

We are having the business that is set down for Thursday because there is an obligation to have a debate on the RAF, and I have been requested to arrange for that debate to be as soon as possible.

Photo of Robert Wareing Robert Wareing , Liverpool, West Derby

What about heating for the old?

Photo of Mr Guy Barnett Mr Guy Barnett , Greenwich

I understand that the order which was to have been debated tomorrow has been delayed because the figures in respect of one of the local authorities involved have been got wrong. It is not unlikely that the figures in respect of several other authorities have also been got wrong. Would it not be more sensible for the House to consider orders concerning each of the authorities which are likely to be affected by rate capping, since in each case there are different circumstances which should be debated separately?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point, but it is one for the debate on Monday.

Photo of Mr Robert Parry Mr Robert Parry , Liverpool, Riverside

Is the Leader of the House satisfied that on Thursday the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1984 should again be debated after the main business? Is it not typical of the Government not to want a proper debate and a good attendance for the debate on Thursday night?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I apologise to the hon. Gentleman, but I did not catch what he said. I should be grateful if he would be kind enough to repeat it.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. Will the hon. Member ask his question again briefly?

Photo of Mr Robert Parry Mr Robert Parry , Liverpool, Riverside

I ask the Leader of the House why he agrees to the Prevention of Terrorism Act being debated on Thursday when he knows that there is a one-line Whip and that many hon. Members will be absent? [Interruption.] Will he reconsider the position so that we can have a proper debate about that important Act?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

In no sense can I answer for the attendance of the House. However, the hon. Gentleman is right that this is an important order. It is to be debated at the usual time of the night for such business.

Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth , Cannock and Burntwood

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many hon. Members will be delighted at his decision to bring forward the debate on the Royal Air Force, which is already overdue, because many important decisions need to be taken?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I thank my hon. Friend.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North

What opportunities will be made available to the borough councils concerned to examine the figures produced by the Government in advance of the debate, and when will the figures be made available to hon. Members?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I shall look into that point and write to the hon. Gentleman.