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:
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.
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?
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?
I suspect that that and a number of similar points will be made during the debate on Thursday.
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?
I assure the hon. Gentleman that there are many issues on which we on the Government Benches are agreed and united.
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?
The choosing of the debate on Thursday was not a matter for me. I am sure that many subjects will be raised during that debate.
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?
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.
It is not for me to comment on the hon. Gentleman's remarks on the position of the Labour party.
As I said, it is normal to announce the speakers for any debate in the normal way, not on the business statement.
I do not think it is necessary for me to comment on that.
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.
I am becoming increasingly aware that the questions being directed to me tonight have nothing to do with me or with the business statement.
As I said this afternoon, the hon. Gentleman has a vivid imagination, and I do not know where he gets his facts from.
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.
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.
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?
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.
The hon. Gentleman raises points that have nothing to do with the business statement.
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?
The hon. Gentleman should wait to see what the result is on Thursday. In view of what he has just said, I have not the slightest doubt that he will be extremely disappointed.
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.
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.