Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Business of the House

12.30 pm

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire): May I ask the Leader of the House to give us the business for next week?

The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mrs. Margaret Beckett): The business for next week is as follows:

Monday 7 February--Motions on Social Security Orders.

Procedure motion relating to the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill.

Tuesday 8 February--Second Reading of the Armed Forces (Discipline) Bill [Lords].

Wednesday 9 February--Conclusion of proceedings on the Financial Services and Markets Bill.

Thursday 10 February--Second Reading of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill.

Friday 11 February--Private Members' Bills.

The provisional business for the following week will be as follows:

Monday 14 February--Consideration in Committee of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill (First Day).

Tuesday 15 February--Second Reading of the Postal Services Bill.

Wednesday 16 February--Consideration in Committee of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill (Second Day).

Thursday 17 February--Opposition Day [5th Allotted Day]. There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.

Friday 18 February--The House will not be sitting.

The House will also wish to know that on Wednesday 16 February there will be a debate on the 1999 review of telecommunications legislation and radio spectrum policy in European Standing Committee C.

The House will also wish to be reminded that on Wednesday 9 February there will be a debate relating to common strategy on Ukraine in European Standing Committee B, and a debate on state aid to the coal industry in European Standing Committee C. Details of the relevant documents will be given in the Official Report.

[Wednesday 9 February 2000:

European Standing Committee B--Relevant European Union documents:13523/2/99, Common Strategy on Ukraine; Unnumbered explanatory memorandum submitted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 1 February 2000, Ukraine Common Strategy Work Plan; Relevant European Scrutiny Committee Reports: HC 23-iv and HC 23-vii (1999-2000). [Wednesday 16 February 2000:

European Standing Committee C--Relevant European documents:14320/98, 12838/99, 12839/99, 12840/99, 1999 Review of Telecommunications Legislation and Radio Spectrum Policy; Relevant European Scrutiny Committee Reports: HC-23-i and HC 23-vii (1999-2000).]

3 Feb 2000 : Column 1206

The House may also like to know that it is the Government's intention that we should rise for Easter at the close of business on Maundy Thursday and return on Tuesday 2 May.

Sir George Young: The House is grateful for next week's business, an indication of the likely business for the week after, and advance notice of the Easter recess.

The whole House is concerned about events in Northern Ireland, following the completion of the de Chastelain report. Of course, we understand all the sensitivities, but can the right hon. Lady tell the House whether the Secretary of State has any plans to make a statement later today?

Can we expect statements next week from the Home Secretary on Senator Pinochet, and from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on his proposals for the licence fee, some six months after the report of the Davies committee?

Will the Leader of the House undertake to find time for the usual St. David's day debate on Welsh affairs?

Following last night's vote, does the right hon. Lady understand that the Opposition very much regret that their nomination for the House of Commons Commission was rejected, with 16 Parliamentary Private Secretaries voting against a motion in the name of the Deputy Chief Whip? Will she use her best endeavours to resolve the inevitable difficulties that have ensued?

Finally, will the Prime Minister make a statement on Monday on his findings, following his tour of the south-west? May not that give him a welcome opportunity to revise the impression that he has given that he is totally out of touch with countryside issues?

Mrs. Beckett: First, I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his welcome for some of the announcements that I made, and for giving me the opportunity to clarify the position.

The House will appreciate that discussions are continuing during the day. Given the political situation in Northern Ireland, the business that I have just announced may be subject to some revision. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland expects to come to the House later this evening to make a statement. If that statement has an impact on the handling of business, I shall announce then any necessary changes in the business of the House.

Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman asked about Senator Pinochet. Although the application by Amnesty International in Belgium for a judicial review has been rejected by Mr. Justice Kay, Amnesty has renewed its application to the divisional court. In view of those proceedings, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has given an undertaking that he will not make a decision on extradition before the hearing of the application, which cannot take place before Monday 7 February. My right hon. Friend has always maintained that he will come to the House to announce the decision as soon as possible.

I note the right hon. Gentleman's wish for a statement on the Davies report. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has that in mind and will make an announcement to the House when he can. The Government intend to find time for a debate on Welsh affairs around St. David's day.

3 Feb 2000 : Column 1207

I take note of the right hon. Gentleman's comments on the later events of yesterday evening. I did not know that 16 PPSs had voted on the matter. They slipped through the net, and the Whips were unable to prevent them from going into the Lobby. That is a stirring tribute to the impression that the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) has made on his colleagues.

I cannot tell the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire that the Prime Minister will make a statement on Monday, following his visit to the south-west. Any anxieties about the decision that the House made last night can be aired in the normal way.

Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): Does my right hon. Friend agree that Question Time is being progressively destroyed by rambling questions from hon. Members and, to be blunt, rambling answers from Ministers? I do not disagree with the content of the answers, but I object to what is happening. We must stop the practice. What can my right hon. Friend do personally to stop it and to bring to the attention of Ministers the need for something to be done?

Mrs. Beckett: My hon. Friend will know Madam Speaker's strong views on the matter, which she expressed again earlier this week. I am conscious of both aspects of the difficulty to which my hon. Friend refers. Ministers should try to give succinct answers, which are to the point. I am sure that he understands that business questions are a little different. I do not criticise the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young) when I say that when Ministers are asked a range of questions, it is difficult not to speak at some length without being accused of not replying to a question.

My hon. Friend is right to say that we are considering a matter of discipline on both sides--hon. Members and Ministers. Both Madam Speaker and I will continue to preach that message.

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall): We welcome the Leader of the House's assurance that, if developments occur, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will make a statement later today rather than waiting until tomorrow, when fewer hon. Members will be present.

I want to comment on the countryside crisis. I have read carefully the contributions of the Prime Minister and the leader of the Conservative party to the National Farmers Union annual general meeting. Both contain an amazing mixture of complacency and refusal to accept responsibility. Will there be a statement and a debate in Government time on the rural crisis? Today, No. 10 pretends that everything is hunky-dory in the countryside, especially in the south-west. That is nonsense.

Will the Leader of the House assure us that there will be an early statement on the Competition Commission report into supermarket profiteering? Predatory pricing is causing huge difficulties to agriculture and creating more problems than exports.

Mrs. Beckett: First, I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments on Northern Ireland.

I have not read all the reports of the NFU annual general meeting, although I know about some of the comments that have been made. I strongly rebut the suggestion that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister

3 Feb 2000 : Column 1208

is complacent. Indeed, he draws attention to the many problems of the countryside, such as lack of transport and schools. However, he also emphasises that those problems have not simply arisen since May 1997 and that the Government are trying to improve matters. I cannot promise the hon. Gentleman an early statement and debate, although he will be conscious, as I am, that that matter is raised often in this slot and I point out to him that Agriculture questions are on Thursday next. I am aware of the Competition Commission report, which is under way, and shall draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

Next Section

IndexHome Page