Orders of the Day — Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 10:16 pm on 20th November 1990.

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Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office), Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Privy Council Office), Chair, Privileges Committee 10:16 pm, 20th November 1990

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a short business statement.

The business for the remainder of this week will now be as follows:

WEDNESDAY 2I NOVEMBER—Until about seven o'clock, second reading of the Disability Living Allowance and Disability Working Allowance Bill, followed by Second Reading of the Armed Forces Bill.

Motion on the Statistics of Trade Act 1947 (Amendment of Schedule) Order 1990.

THURSDAY 22 NOVEMBER—Debate on the Opposition motion of no confidence in Her Majesty's Government.

FRIDAY 23 NOVEMBER—AS I announced last week, there will be a debate on the GATT round of trade negotiations on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Photo of Dr Jack Cunningham Dr Jack Cunningham Chair, House of Commons (Services): Computer Sub-Committee, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Since clearly the Prime Minister commands the support of only 204 Members of this House and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition commands the support of 227 Members, should not the Prime Minister resign now? Is it not clear that there is not now, and never ever again will be, an honest majority in this House in support of the Prime Minister's policies? Is it not clear beyond doubt that the party of government in charge of the affairs of this nation is hopelessly and irreconcilably split from lop to bottom? In those circumstances, would it not be far better for the people of Britain to decide who the next Prime Minister should be in a general election as soon as possible?

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office), Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Privy Council Office), Chair, Privileges Committee

As I made clear this afternoon, there was a clear and large majority for the vote at the end of the Queen's Speech debates. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman waits to see what the majority vote is on Thursday evening.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Eltham

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it is likely to be in order in the debate on Thursday, if others raise the question of the number of votes, to draw the attention of the House to the fact that in the election for the leadership of the Labour party in 1983 there were 101 votes for the other three candidates and 102 for the present leader of the Labour party?

Several Hon. Members:

rose——

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

Order. I underline what the Leader of the House said. I ask hon. Members to put questions about the change of business and not to make debating points which may well be made in the debate.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

I am sure that the Leader of the House is only too grateful to the Leader of the Opposition for tabling the one motion which can be guaranteed to unite the Conservative party—[Interruption.]—albeit a superficial unity. Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that with important issues facing the country—on our relationship with our European partners, about the economy and about how the country is governed—we shall be governed by a broken-backed Government and that the only vote of confidence is the vote of the people?

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , East Londonderry

Does the right hon. Gentleman understand that the Members of the Ulster Unionist party find it not so much surprising as astonishing that the motion should have been tabled at this moment? May we be assured that there will be a calm and rational debate on the real issues that have divided not only the Conservative party but the Labour party—the relationship between this nation and the other nations in Europe and on the question whether we are to become part of a full federal Europe?

Photo of Stuart Bell Stuart Bell , Middlesbrough

The Leader of the House was gracious enough to refer to the Queen's Speech and to say that the Government had received a big majority in the vote at the end of that debate, even though we did not see in the Queen's Speech any reference to a proposed referendum on the exchange rate mechanism. May we be assured that the Prime Minister will, from the Dispatch Box, respond to the motion of censure and not evade the debate, as she did recently?

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office), Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Privy Council Office), Chair, Privileges Committee

It is not normal to announce speakers during a business statement—[Interruption.]—and that is a statement of fact. But I can tell the House that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will open for the Government, as is normal in such debates.

Photo of Mr Jim Sillars Mr Jim Sillars , Glasgow Govan

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this must be the first time in parliamentary history that the Leader of the Opposition has tabled a censure motion not to wound or bring down the Prime Minister but to save her? [Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Jim Sillars Mr Jim Sillars , Glasgow Govan

Is he further aware that if the Leader of the Opposition succeeds in saving Thatcher, thereby retaining the poll tax, the people of Scotland will exact a price from him at Paisley?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Shadow Attorney General

May we be told who will be handed the poisoned chalice of being the second speaker for the Government in Thursday's debate?

Photo of Mr Donald Anderson Mr Donald Anderson Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

When the Prime Minister opens for the Government, will she be using a broken bat?

Photo of Mr Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Falkirk East

Is the Leader of the House aware that I have some sympathy with him tonight, having been attacked by the former Liberals, now the Liberal Democrats, and the Scottish National party? After all is said and done, they voted with the Tories in 1979 to bring down the Labour Government. Their great fear—the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) has been here before; that is his big problem—is that we shall succeed on Thursday and bring down the Government.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Now that 152 Tory Members have impaled the Prime Minister on the barbed wire, may we assume that, in Thursday's debate, Ministers who failed to support the Prime Minister in today's ballot will be brought to heel for failing to carry out collective responsibility?

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

Given that the Leader of the House has full control over the announcement that he made this evening, why did he not announce a two-day debate for Wednesday and Thursday? That might have given the Prime Minister two chances to drag herself away from the ballet to come here and justify the past 11 years of attacks on working class people.

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office), Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Privy Council Office), Chair, Privileges Committee

It makes sense to rearrange the business as I have, so that the House can take the Second Readings of the two Bills that we were due to take this week, which is precisely what I have done.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Falkirk West

As Thursday's debate will probably be televised live, and as the Government's previous diktat to the broadcasting authorities was that they should ensure that everyone got a fair kick of the ball, may we take it that the Prime Minister will be kicking off and Tarzan will be taking the penalties in extra time?

Photo of Mr Dick Douglas Mr Dick Douglas , Dunfermline West

Does the Leader of the House accept that, if we work out the arithmetic, there is an overwhelming majority in the House against the Prime Minister's flagship, the poll tax? We would expect, particularly in Scotland, notwithstanding the result on Thursday, that legislation would immediately be brought in because the people of Scotland resisted the tax by every peaceful means, including non-payment. It is that signal, and that signal alone, that has brought the Government to their present plight.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson

Has the Leader of the House seen the Press Association headlines this evening? There have been many amazing headlines, but the one to which I shall draw his attention——

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

Order. Is this about the business statement?

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson

It is, Mr. Speaker. The headline says: Patten warns of extinction threat. It goes on to say that one third of the world's species will be extinct by 2025. I am not sure whether that was a reference to the time or the year. Will the Leader of the House tell the public—because many people do not know—what precisely will happen if the Government lose the motion on Thursday?

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

Will the Leader of the House confirm that on Friday there will be a debate on the general agreement on tariffs and trade? Can he assure the House that a Minister from the Department of Trade and Industry will be present, because this broken-backed Government cannot now enter such negotiations—they concern the replacement of the multi-fibre arrangement and its phasing out—with any confidence because of the continuing balloting? Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that jobs in the textile industry are being lost because of the Government's inactivity? Does he not realise that the people of Bradford, like the rest of the nation, want to vote on this issue and get the Tories out? They do not want business statements from the Leader of the House; they want an announcement from the Prime Minister of a general election which would let people decide.

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office), Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Privy Council Office), Chair, Privileges Committee

I have already commented several times today on the point about a general election. I can confirm that a Minister from the Department of Trade and Industry will deal with the GATT debate, and I agree that textiles will be an issue in it. I wholly reject the hon. Gentleman's charge about the position of the Government.