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Mr. Cryer : Indeed. Hon. Members are not badly paid ; most of them get more than most of their constituents. If hon. Members are willing to stay here to examine legislation to try to make it clear and free from the festering examination of lawyers, we should stay here to do just that--that is what we are paid to do. The Government are denying us that opportunity by moving the closure.
Mr. Pike : My hon. Friend is right to say that we should give these important matters detailed examination. I hope that he appreciates that we are talking about 152 pages of amendments. Some people outside might think that we are talking about the odd word or so and minor matters, but some of the amendments are several pages long. We need considerable time to discuss those matters in detail. Mr. Tony Banks rose --
My hon. Friend for Burnley is right. No doubt the Government would argue outside that they moved the motion to curtail the debate because the amendments, although in their hundreds, were technical and minor.
Column 955Perhaps an amendment deletes "may" and inserts "shall", but such a change would represent a major change of policy rather than a minor amendment. That argument would not wash with hon. Members. My hon. Friend is also right to argue that some of those amendments do not simply delete one word and insert another, but are several pages long. The Government have put down a sufficient number of amendments to constitute a book full of amendments. Those amendments constitute a greater amount of wordage than in many Bills. The Government are denying us the right to discuss amendments in detail, but those amendments constitute more words than we see in many of the Bills put before us.
I cannot imagine a better illustration of the way in which the Government are trampling on the democratic rights of this House. They are trying to oppress us by denying us the opportunity to speak out. If the Government Chief Whip wants to intervene and tell us that the Government want to withdraw the business motion, I will be happy to give way. However, the Government are more intent on curtailing democratic rights than on entering into any spirit of understanding with a constructive Opposition.
Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian) : My hon. Friend referred to the Government trampling on the democratic rights of Parliament. Does he believe that we could learn from what has happened in East Germany today, where I understand that the Cabinet has resigned and--
Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. I have heard what the hon. Gentleman has to say. I found it very interesting, but he must relate his intervention to the motion before the House. If he can do that, I will hear him.
Mr. Home Robertson : I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker. We are dealing with the procedure before the House and the power of Parliament to control the actions of the Government. My interesting point is that in East Germany, apparently, the Parliament is to have an opportunity to elect the Cabinet. Would that not be useful in this country?
Mr. Cryer : That is a very interesting point. One of the reasons for Parliament is to give us an opportunity to control and scrutinise the Executive. When that opportunity is denied through the use of business motions of this kind, when the Opposition is run roughshod over because the Government have a majority of 100 or so, the message goes out to the people on the street that our democracy is crumbling. We have seen what can happen in those circumstances in other countries.
Mr. Tony Banks : Is my hon. Friend aware that we should have reached Lords amendment No. 266 and amendments (a) to (d) to that amendment tonight? That amendment deals with emergency planning, particularly in London. I was hoping to move some of those amendments, because we have no civil emergency planning in London. Surely that should concern this House from a personal as well as from a local, strategic point of view. Something disastrous might happen to the House of
Column 956Commons tonight, but there is no co- ordinated emergency planning in London. Is my hon. Friend aware that London is the only capital city in Europe that does not have a co-ordinated--
Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. That is a very convoluted intervention. The hon. Gentleman is a very skilled parliamentarian and I have no doubt that he can relate what he has to say to the motion before the House. Have another try--Mr. Tony Banks.
I was trying to explain that this motion will curtail a reasonable debate on a subject that is of prime importance to the capital city and therefore of some passing significance to the House. I want my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) to take that into account as he opposes this motion.
Mr. Cryer : I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It is particularly distressing that the Government should try to curtail debate on such an important issue. As I have an interest in a London constituency and am concerned about it, I would have urged the Government to accept the amendment, because one of the great cities in western Europe--indeed the greatest city--has no emergency planning--
Mr. Winnick : It is appropriate that my hon. Friend should speak of the restrictions on parliamentary debate when it seems that the Leader of the House is going to restrict it even further by denying us the chance to debate this motion.
Does my hon. Friend consider it odd that the Prime Minister goes around boasting about the need for democracy and lecturing other countries on the subject while here at home there is no democracy in the Cabinet and there are severe restrictions on democracy in this place? When my hon. Friend sits down, the Leader of the House will try to stop us debating.
Before my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) made his interesting point, I was talking about emergency planning in peacetime, which is the sort of matter that Parliament should discuss. I have already said that the Opposition have been prepared to put forward constructive and helpful amendments, but I have not yet touched on policy. My hon. Friend the Member for
Column 957Newham, North-West could not have brought this important subject to the attention of the House in any other way. If I had not questioned this routine motion to adjourn further consideration, my hon. Friend would not have had the chance to point out that the Government are trying to deny us the right to debate emergency planning in the greatest city in the United Kingdom--a city of14 million people. I dare say there are more efficient and effective measures in Bradford than those available to the citizens of London. It is outrageous that this opportunity to discuss emergency planning in peacetime is being curtailed. It is interesting that, on the very day when, on one of his rare trips to the House, the Secretary of State for Transport spoke about a major railway disaster, this issue should have come up. Labour Members representing London boroughs would have dealt with the matter, but the chance to do so has been denied them--
Mr. Allen McKay : It was strange that the motion to adjourn consideration was moved when we were talking about aspects of rural areas. Coincidentally, the next group of amendments affect us all--they deal with the sale of old people's flats and bungalows without the possibility of their replacement--and that is serious.
Mr. Cryer : My hon. Friend raises two important matters. There is a notion that the Labour party does not take a deep interest in rural areas, but this set of events gives the lie to that. The Government intervened to stop discussion of certain aspects of rural housing. We shall certainly get votes--
Mr. David Hunt : We are debating the motion that the debate be adjourned and I have not heard any arguments from the hon. Gentleman about why that motion should not be carried. There are 606 amendments before the House but 90 per cent. of them are technical and consequential. The amendments are in 22 groups of which we have managed to complete only two. It is clear that we have not made the progress that we had reasonably expected, and I strongly urge the hon. Gentleman to accept the motion and let us adjourn.
Several Hon. Members rose--
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Tim Renton) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put. Question put, That the Question be now put :--
The House proceeded to a Division--
Mr. Tony Banks (seated and covered) : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. This is the second time on a point of order that I have found myself caught short when you have decided to take an interrupted motion. Do you not have any discretion at all in relation to an interrupted motion? My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) was making a number of valid points in which the whole House was interested. Every hon. Member was listening with great attention. I would have thought that discretion could have been exercised. I know that you do not need to explain, and I
Column 958am not asking you to explain, but could you tell me for the sake of the future whether you can exercise such discretion?
Madam Deputy Speaker : The Question had been put first. I must be honest with the hon. Gentleman : although he has a very good voice and I often hear him, on this occasion his voice was drowned by the voices of Conservative Members.
Mr. Pike (seated and covered) : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. May I ask whether you have been given any indication by the Government that they intend to make a business statement following the Division? Alternatively, have they said when they intend to bring the business that we have been debating back to the Floor of the House?
The House having divided : Ayes 165, Noes 46.
Division No. 372] [12.05 pm
Alison, Rt Hon Michael
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Bevan, David Gilroy
Boscawen, Hon Robert
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)
Browne, John (Winchester)
Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Currie, Mrs Edwina
Davis, David (Boothferry)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Fishburn, John Dudley
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Fox, Sir Marcus
Glyn, Dr Alan
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael