Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:43 pm on 5th February 1987.

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Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 3:43 pm, 5th February 1987

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman.

The Government's decision to put a guillotine on the Abolition of Domestic Rates, etc. (Scotland) Bill is a disgrace. Every part of the legislative process of this Bill has been marked by the Government's disregard for the proper process of informed debate. This Bill is unfair and completely unwanted by the people of Scotland. Will the Government reconsider their decision and at least allow further time for the Scottish people to have their case put fully in the House?

On a further point about Scotland, is the Leader of the House aware that, in the matter of the decision to close the Caterpillar tractor plant at Uddingston, with a loss of over 1,200 jobs, the Secretary of State for Scotland has so far made several statements outside the House voicing his amazement and disappointment but has made no statement to the House since the last Scottish Question Time? Bearing in mind the enthusiastic and optimistic references to Caterpillar that the Secretary of State made in his new year message, does the Leader of the House not think it high time that his right hon. Friend came to the House to make a statement, preferably in a debate—in any case, very quickly — before he becomes a mere public mourner for private crimes committed by the Caterpillar company?

Yesterday, the Lord Advocate — this matter has already been referred to in the House today—made a statement in the other place about the raid that the special branch carried out on the BBC in Scotland. I understand that, in response to a letter from my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), the Solicitor-General for Scotland said that he was willing to make a statement about the matter in the House of Commons. In view of that, and in view of the inconsistency between what the Secretary of State for Scotland told the House on Tuesday and what the Lord Advocate told the other place yesterday, does the Leader of the House agree that the Solicitor-General for Scotland's offer to make a statement here should be taken up immediately, and, at the very latest at the beginning of next week?

Has the Leader of the House seen the article in today's edition of The Guardian that suggests that the Zircon details were published in an industrial newsletter called "Interspace" in 1984? Will he ask the Home Secretary to investigate this report and get him to make a statement to the House next week? It is clear that such information could affect the context of the Government's present actions under the Official Secrets Act.

Once again, I ask the Leader of the House to give urgent consideration to having a debate on the great and growing crisis of the decline in Britain's Merchant Navy. I realise that the issue was referred to in the debates on the Navy earlier this week, particularly in excellent speeches by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) and the right hon. Member for Taunton (Sir E. du Cann). In the past seven years, the fleet has shrunk by over 50 per cent. to fewer than 500 vessels. Surely, as I have said before, that must be a matter of great national interest arid worthy of a debate in Government time. I urge the Leader of the House to make that time available.

Finally, in view of the confidence shown in market forces that led to the sale of Westland plc to Sikorsky a year ago, recent news of the company's financial crisis must come as a severe disappointment to the Government, as indeed it does to the Opposition and to Westland's workers. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the Government will bail out the company? Will he arrange for a statement to be made on the issue by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry early next week?