Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 29th February 1988.

Alert me about debates like this

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons Mr. John Wakeham):

With permission Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a short statement about the rearranged business for this week:

TUESDAY 1 MARCH—Until about seven o'clock, motions on a Social Security Order and Regulations. Details are in the Official Report.

Resumption of the adjourned debate on the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Acts 1978 and 1987 (Continuance) Order.

Motion on the Appropriation (Northern Ireland) Order.

WEDNESDAY 2 MARCH—There will be a debate on Welsh affairs on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Motions on the Coal Industry (Restructuring Grants) and (Limit on Deficit Grants) Orders.

Motion on the annual report from the European Court of Auditors for 1986. Details are in the Official Report.

The business for the remainder of the week remains unchanged.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Chair, House of Commons (Services): Computer Sub-Committee, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the Leader of the House for his statement and welcome the opportunity to continue the debate on the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Acts order, but my colleagues from Scotland and Wales believe that they have not been treated quite as fairly. It appears that the business this week can be changed at the drop of a hat, yet Scottish Members are expected to debate the order on Paisley grammar school at some ungodly hour tonight. If the business for tomorrow could be changed so swiftly to accommodate the needs of Northern Ireland, my right hon. and hon. Friends from Wales believe that it could have been adjusted to enable the debate on Welsh affairs to be held on St. David's day. Apparently it was impossible to make the adjustment last week, but this announcement shows that it would have been possible to make the adjustment this week.

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I thought that I had done pretty well to get the Welsh affairs debate as near to St. David's day as I have done. Before the hon. Gentleman continues in this tone, I suggest that he examines the record of the Labour Government, who often failed to provide time for a debate on Welsh affairs at this time of the year.

Photo of Mr James Molyneaux Mr James Molyneaux , Lagan Valley

Does the Leader of the House agree that, far from giving preferential treatment to Northern Ireland business, the change resulted from a certain amount of bungling by hon. Members on both Front Benches?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

No. The change resulted from an initiative that I took. The House wanted a statement on a major matter, which meant that the time allocated to the Northern Ireland debate, which would otherwise have been satisfactory, was not enough. I thought that the House generally welcomed my action.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Epping Forest

While thanking my right hon. Friend for so promptly and graciously acceding to the wishes of Back-Bench Members on both sides of the House for more time to debate the emergency powers, may I ask whether the necessity to alter the business does not bring out forcefully the unsatisfactory manner in which Northern Ireland business has been handled since the abolition of Stormont?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I appreciate that hon. Members on both sides of the House believe that our handling of Northern Ireland business is less than ideal, but I have no proposals to change it now.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas , Meirionnydd Nant Conwy

I assure the Leader of the House that the attachment of Plaid Cymru Members to Wales is not sentimental, so whether the debate takes place on St. David's day, the day before or the day after is immaterial. The important thing is to have regular debates, unlike the position under some Labour Administrations — [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Before Conservative Members cheer too much, may I ask the Leader of the House to confirm that the debate will be wide-ranging and that there will be no problems about ministerial arid departmental responsibility for the subjects covered in the debate? Will the debate cover the role of all Government Departments in Wales, and will the Secretary of State for Wales be free to comment on the activities of the Department of Energy?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

The debate will be on the Adjournment, and that is as wide a basis as possible for a debate in the House. Whether what the hon. Gentleman says is in order will be a matter for you, Mr. Speaker, not for me.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn , Newport West

As some compensation for the slight to Welsh Members, will the Leader of the House consider making arrangements so that in future debates in this place and elsewhere we can discuss the affairs of our country in both the languages of our country? Many of the debating chambers throughout the world succeed in debating in two, three, and sometimes as many as 10, languages. Surely it is within the realms of possibility that in this House, perhaps on an experimental basis at first, we can arrange to debate in both the languages of Wales.

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I have no plans for that at the moment, but if the hon. Gentleman is so sensitive that he considers it a slight to have the Welsh debate on 2 March, he must be positively insulted by the record of the previous Labour Government.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

As there are more people living in the west midlands than in Wales, and as more languages are spoken in the west midlands than in Wales, does my right hon. Friend agree that the Welsh get far more time in the House than those representing the west midlands, and that it is high time that that was reversed?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I have no plans to reverse it next week, but I take my hon. Friend's point.

Photo of Mr Greville Janner Mr Greville Janner , Leicester West

Perhaps the Leader of the House knows that many of us who were born in Wales would associate ourselves with the views that have been expressed about Wednesday.

As the business of the House for tomorrow is being changed, and as it has been announced that the Secretary of State for Defence is giving a written answer today to a question by the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) about the British commandos sent to their death by Waldheim's unit, is there any chance of a statement being made either before or after tomorrow's business, because the matters raised in that written question are immensely important? The families of those commandos are still alive, and one of them wrote to me yesterday. They are extremely concerned. It is now clear that not only Waldheim but his family have been involved in those matters in a way that should be brought before the House in a statement, not in a written answer.

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been forthcoming about the Government's attitude to these matters. I cannot promise a statement, but I shall refer the matter to my right hon. Friend.