Previous Section Home Page

Column 920

I am the Member of Parliament for the constituency that will be most significantly affected by the Bill. The river Tees runs through my constituency, and two of the three development sites that will be opened up by the Bill are in my constituency. A number of people in my part of the country will be much encouraged if the House allows the Bill to continue its progress, having been passed by the other place before it collapsed here at the end of the previous Session.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : The Leader of the House.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) rose--

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I would not want, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to stand in the way of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner).

Mr. Skinner : The right hon. and learned Gentleman is big enough, is he not?

Sir Peter Emery : The hon. Gentleman has only just come in. 8.45 pm

Mr. Skinner : Yes, I have just come in. I spend a lot of time in this place. I was here earlier, between 2.30 and 5.30. I did not see the hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery). The person who was sitting where he is sitting now was his old friend the ex-Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). I did not see the hon. Gentleman move up and let the ex-Prime Minister sit in his customary place, so the hon. Gentleman should not give me all that crap about how long he has been here.

Sir Peter Emery : Without that kind of interjection, the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has been here long enough to know that many hon. Members do a lot of work outside the Chamber. Many of them sit on Committees. I have probably been here today far longer than the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Skinner : That is a debating point. While the hon. Gentleman was making money in whatever business he makes money in now--he used to make it out of diving companies--I was in Committee this morning at 10.30. [Interruption.] I did not start this ; the hon. Member for Honiton started it and I intend to finish it. I do not intend to be lectured by Conservative Members who make money in the law courts and come here later in the day to make money out of moonlighting jobs, as directors of this or that firm, or as parliamentary advisers. One of the reasons why many Opposition Members opposed certain Bills was that it was drawn to our attention that the private Bill procedure was in a mess. One of the Bills that we came up against was the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill. We thought that the four Members who considered the Bill in Committee were totally disinterested in the Bill. We took it for granted, perhaps naively, that hon. Members who were sponsored by the National Union of Mineworkers could not sit on the Committee that considered the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill. Since it would lead to huge imports of coal, it was thought that we had a direct interest in stopping the Bill reaching the statute book. That was true, and what happened? NUM-sponsored Members were excluded from the Committee. Even my hon. Friend the

Column 921

Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) was excluded, although he represents a constituency where there are still miners. Who sat on the Bill? Two hon. Members with no connections with the mining industry were Committee members. The conventions of the House allow two Tory Members to sit on the other side of the Committee. One of them, the hon. Member for Rochford (Dr. Clark), who is not here, ended up as Chairman of the Committee that considered the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill. When we made some inquiries, we found that he is not at all disinterested. He is the parliamentary adviser to the British Chemical Engineering Contractors Association. One of the firms that is a part of that consortium has a sister or brother company that promoted a Bill relating to the Humber--the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill.

So we have a Tory Chairman with a direct interest in the Bill. We had a Bill several pages long that took weeks and weeks in Committee, and some of my hon. Friends decided to table some amendments. What happened? Surprise, surprise, the two Tories voted, and the very-much-interested Chairman used his casting vote to ensure that no amendment went through.

Experienced parliamentarians will know--you will know it, Mr. Deputy Speaker--that, when a Bill is in Committee for months, the chances are that one or two amendments will get through. It is almost certain that some major amendments will get through, but with that Bill it was deemed that no amendments should be allowed because the Tories did not want us to have a Report stage. The result was that no amendments went through--it was 2-2 and the casting vote every time. As a result, the Bill was excluded from a Report stage on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I remind the hon. Member that the Bill that he is referring to now is not in the motion before the House.

Mr. Skinner : Yes, I know that, but--

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Member must direct his remarks to Bills that are contained in the motion.

Mr. Skinner : I have no doubts about the fact that the Associated British Ports Bill is not included in this long list of Bills in the motion, but it is first on the agenda, and there will be a Third Reading debate on it when we come back after Christmas.

I know what the score is, but I have to tell you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so that you can tell the Clerk sitting in front of you, who is telling you to put me in order. You should tell the Clerk that I am explaining why there has been a backlog of Bills. One of the reasons is that the Tory Government have been playing politics with the Associated British Ports Bill. Why? Because they want South African coal to be imported into Britain. They do not care tuppence about the balance of payments deficit. They are prepared to add to it, and to shut pits to allow South African coal to come in. Some of us have had the guts to stand up and oppose the Associated British Ports Bill in the House, and so there has been a backlog of Bills. The hon. Member for Honiton knows all about it because he is Chairman of the Procedure Committee. He is not wet behind the ears, and he knows that that is one of the reasons why we have a

Column 922

string of private Bills today, and why there is a revival motion, which is a relatively new procedure and not normal practice for the House of Commons. The revival motion is for all the Bills that fell before the end of the last parliamentary Session.

The Government were so certain that they would get their measures through. Some of those Bills were political, and some were ordinary, run-of-the-mill private Bills that came up in the normal way. I would have supported some of them. The reason for the backlog is that the Government have allowed the private Bill procedure to fall into disrepute. That is why the Chairman of the Procedure Committee has raised the matter before. The Committee has discussed the issue on several occasions.

Sir Peter Emery : The hon. Gentleman is wrong.

Mr. Skinner : I am not wrong. Does the hon. Gentleman want to join in the debate, because I know that he has stood in the Chamber on numerous occasions and said to the Leader of the House, "Why don't you do something about the private Bill procedure?" I have heard him say it.

Sir Peter Emery : The hon. Gentleman may know that the Procedure Committee can deal only with public business. We cannot deal with private business, and the matter has not been discussed by the Procedure Committee at any time. I only point that out so that the hon. Gentleman can get it right.

Mr. Skinner : The hon. Gentleman has raised the matter with the Leader of the House on previous occasions, and with the previous Leader of the House. He knows that the private Bill procedure has created a lot of difficulties. We have a backlog of private Bills because too many people understood what was happening to the procedure.

Public companies make representations in this place, through the promoter, to get their Bills through. They should go to the local authority to get planning permission, but the private Bill is a convenient way to get round that.

Mr. Simon Hughes : It is convenient.

Mr. Skinner : The hon. Gentleman should have told that to some of his hon. Friends who ought to have been in the Coal Industry Bill Committee today, but who were missing. Have they got the flu as well? They are falling like flies. I noticed the Prime Minister was in the Division Lobby earlier spreading it. She looked as if she was deliberately bumping into our Members, but I do not think she was all that successful.

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey made a worthwhile remark--it is convenient. Companies say, "Can we get this through the local authority?" The answer is, "You haven't got a cat in hell's chance, but I'll tell you what we'll do. I have a promoter, a nice fellow in the House of Commons, he will slip it through". The company asks, "Is it all right?" The answer is, "Yes. It's easy. The Tories have a 150 majority."

A lot of people are not fully aware that one can do anything when one has a 150 majority. They do not have to bring in all their Members to get a Bill through. They can settle it with two-thirds of their members, and allow a third to go missing, go to bed or go to work in the City, or wherever.

More companies are saying "That's a nice little earner. Let's get it through on the Floor of the House." Some

Column 923

Opposition Members have got wise to that. Naturally, some people want some Bills, and some do not. The result has been a backlog that has continued to grow. The determination of the Tory Government to get the Associated British Ports Bill through has meant that the backlog has got worse.

Some Opposition Members are determined to cut back the current balance of payments deficit, even though the Government are not. We do not want more and more coal to be brought into Britain. We detest the fact that coal is coming from South Africa, in particular, but it is a scandal for any coal to come into Britain when pits are being shut down. That is what the Government's policy is all about. Some Opposition Members believe that if private Bills are allowed to get through, it will result in a massive drain on the balance of payments. It will lead to the closing of pits in nearly every British coalfield. So, is the Associated British Ports Bill a political Bill? The answer is yes, of course it is. It should have been in the Queen's Speech. The Government should have the guts to say that they want to bring in a Bill that will result in shutting down pits. They do not have the guts, and so they allow promoters to bring in the Bill, through the back door, and then they expect Labour Members to say, "Oh well, we'd better not oppose it. It's a private Bill." We are not wet behind the ears. We did not drop off a Christmas tree. We know what the game is all about. We understood that when we had the Felixstowe Dock and Harbour Bill. They are political Bills. That is why the Prime Minister used to turn up to vote for the Associated British Ports Bill in her carpet slippers. She knows whose side she is on--the side of people importing South African coal. Making money for her friends in the City--that is what the game is all about. When that happens, somebody has to have the guts to say, "We are not prepared to tolerate it." That is what we have done, although on some occasions it has meant other Bills being blocked. It is vital to spot the Bill that is a wolf in sheep's clothing--the political Bill which is not really a private Bill. We have to draw its presence to the notice of the authorities of the House. As a result, the Leader of the House has said two or three times that he will do something about this procedure. I do not know what he will do.

Mr. Barry Field : Will the hon. Gentleman explain how the Isle of Wight Bill is political?

Mr. Skinner : I did not say that it was. The hon. Gentleman has not been listening carefully. There may be some political content. We have always had private Bills, but now that we have a Tory Government with a big majority it is easier to get around the planning laws at local authority level by pushing through a private Bill, especially if it suits the Government. The Isle of Wight Bill, like many others, got caught up in the backlog.

There is another Bill in the list called the London Local Authorities Bill. I did not know much about it until I bumped into someone recently and asked about it. It concerns street markets in London in the main. Most Labour- controlled local authorities say that it is not bad, that they have tidied it up and, because most boroughs in London are Labour-controlled, there is no problem. But what about the poor people in Westminster who have to operate in Lady Porter's domain? Street traders in

Column 924

Westminster must be worried about people from Westminster city council operating under that Bill. Such considerations must be explored.

At the end of the previous Session, the Leader of the House had five or six nights without sleep. He kept having to come in at 2 am or 3 am. He has been dropping off ever since. He had to come in and, to use a parliamentary phrase, pull stumps because some of us were protesting about how private Bills were being used. We told him time and again that, if he wanted to get to bed at a decent time and not have to surrender Government business, which he had to do five times, or use the guillotine, he should reform the private Bill procedure so that political Bills did not emerge as private Bills, thus bringing Parliament into disrepute. That is just one of the reasons why this backlog has arisen.

Contrary to the advice that you have received from your Clerk, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I must tell you that we object for reasons that are connected with the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill and others, such as the North Killingholme Cargo Terminal Bill. You cannot hide behind the notion that these Bills are not connected, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Many are. That is why many of us have come here night after night to oppose Government business. That is the only power that Oppositions have.

If you read any textbook about parliamentary government, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you will find that they tell you that the Opposition have the power to oppose, day and night. They are taking a bit of a liberty when they write stuff like that, but there is an element of truth in it. It is not the truth and nothing but the truth, but there is a bit of truth in it. If a few hon. Members are prepared to fight and stick it out night after night, they can force the Government to introduce a guillotine. We cannot stop Government business, but we can delay it. It is the Opposition's job to oppose. We do not expect to defeat a Government with a majority of 150--

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West) : Of 150?

Mr. Skinner : It is 150 against Labour. I cannot account for these rag, tag and bobtails behind me who turn up only half the time, nor can I account for hon. Members who represent Northern Ireland who turn up now and again and usually vote Tory. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) is not sitting in his usual place. I do not know why he is trying to cuddle up to the Government's deputy Chief Whip. Normally he does not and sticks out for his pure, undiluted monetarism. Perhaps he has thrown the towel in because he voted with the Prime Minister on the motion on war crimes. [Interruption.] Well, it sounds as though he voted with her. I thought that he would be one of the "certs" to vote against her.

We have power to hold the Government back, but we are not naive enough to believe that we can hold them back for ever. They have increasingly used the power of the guillotine to stop debate and to stop democracy. Other Governments have done that too.

Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford) : Does my hon. Friend recall that it has not always been necessary for the Leader of the House to pull up stumps in debates on private Bills? Does he recollect that a very large party was thrown for Tory MPs to keep them here for most of the night?

Column 925

Mr. Skinner : To keep them here?

Mr. Lofthouse : Yes. The ports authorities threw a party to keep Tory Members here.

Mr. Skinner : My hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse) is absolutely right. That is a classic example of the abuse that occurs as a result of the private Bill procedure. The Felixstowe Dock and Railway Bill was also entirely political from beginning to end. It sought to change the ports facilities along the east coast. There was real money to be made. It was not about tidying up a little bit of coastline ; it was about making real brass. It was all about sweeteners- -the current word for bribery and crookedness. So what happened? The promoters of the Bill said, "We had better keep the Tories here." They were not too sure whether Tory Members would stay all night as we had tabled a host of amendments. The Government have not allowed any amendments on the Associated British Ports Bill. That is one lesson they have learnt. The promoters said, "We shall keep the Tories here. We have it all arranged. We know they like a night out. We know that they like their champagne, so we shall put on a little party close by." But somebody on our side managed to get wind of it.

Mr. Simon Hughes : They had an invitation.

Mr. Skinner : I think that they sent an invitation to somebody with a similar name. It is the cock-up theory of history and it happens from time to time. As a result, the whole idea was blown so the Tories had to hurriedly

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman is puzzling me now. I cannot find the relationship between what he is saying and the revival motion before the House.

Mr. Skinner : I do not know whether you received an invite, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so you might well be puzzled. If you did not get an invite and you were not there that night, I can understand your bewilderment. We all understand that. We were not invited. We did not want an invite. We should have liked the Tory Members to go to the party because we would have called a snap vote.

You ask whether it is relevant, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You bet it is. It is relevant because this is a revival motion. The Chairman of Ways and Means has probably told you that we are debating a revival motion because the Government could not get the Bill through in the last Session. They could not get a carry-over motion so that the Bills could be debated in this Session. It is really a crazy system. The textbooks say that if the Government lose a Bill in a parliamentary Session, it is dead. But the Government have a quaint little procedure which is very handy when money is being made on the side--to have a carry-over motion. If they cannot get a carry-over motion to the next Session of Parliament, they have a revival motion when the Session is finished.

Mr. David Harris (St. Ives) : Disgraceful.

Mr. Skinner : It is disgraceful. I am pleased that someone has woken up to the fact that all that corruption and graft is associated with private Bills. There is no question but that it is disgraceful, especially when it will throw people out of work. Some people in my constituency are playing merry hell about these ports Bills. They say it is disgraceful every day of the week. I hope that the hon.

Column 926

Member for Honiton puts those words into practice when the Associated British Ports Bill comes back after Christmas.

Sir Peter Emery : I did not say that.

Mr. Skinner : So the hon. Gentleman did not say that. It must have been one of his mates. But there is no doubt that it is disgraceful. Does the hon. Member for Honiton agree that it is disgraceful even if he did not say so at the time?

It is all about politics. It is not about private Bills. The Opposition know that and so do the Government, but they shelter behind them.

So we have a revival motion. It does not happen all the time, does it, Mr. Deputy Speaker? I bet that it is the first one since you have been in the Chair. I am taking a bet on it, but I might be right. I think that the first time a revival motion was used was for one of the Channel tunnel Bills. It was one of the ones with which the Government got mixed up. They got mixed up with the latest one because they ran out of money. In 1974, a snap election was called during the recess and the Channel Tunnel Bill was still on the stocks. When they called the general election the parliamentary Session ended. What did they do? They said, "We have not had a carry-over motion for the Channel Tunnel Bill, so we shall invent another name." That is what they did, and they called it a revival motion.

It is said that this mother of Parliaments has the sort of democracy that we shall sell to every country in the world--every Third world country comes trotting here to see the mother of Parliaments--but, by God, it is a bit seedy when one examines what happens. Not only are there 1,000 people down the other end of this mother of Parliaments who have not been elected by anybody, but in here the Government twist and turn and use the procedures to get their business through in order to line the pockets of their friends.

Mr. Simon Hughes : I have resisted intervening so far. Although the hon. Gentleman's lecture on constitutional law is welcome, he always misses one salient point--none of the private Bills that are supported by the Government would get through if the membership of this place reflected the views of the electorate. When he supports a proper electoral system I shall more frequently support his arguments on constitutional law.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : I am sure that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) will not be tempted to broaden the debate to the electoral system.

Mr. Skinner : I am talking about a revival motion. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey knows all about revivals--his party has tried about three in the past 12 months. Only a few weeks ago, he was threatening that if the Liberal party did not revive itself and change its name for the 15th time in the past 12 months he would join the greens. He was going to start a revival motion for the Green party, but now that it has fallen in the opinion polls he never talks about it ; he has gone back to the Mary Rose and all the rest of it. I do not want any lectures about revivals from the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Simon Hughes : We are very good at revivals.

Mr. Skinner : No, the hon. Gentleman's party is not. It has tried mergers with Dr. Death and now it is trying them with Paddy Backdown. It has had revival after revival, but

Column 927

it is as far away from power as the Vietnamese boat people in Hong Kong. The hon. Gentleman talks about something that I am not allowed to refer to--

Mr. Hughes : Comedian.

Mr. Skinner : "Comedian?" The hon. Gentleman's party talks about proportional representation and bringing more of its people into Parliament. We want people to work when they get here ; we want them to do a stint ; and we want them to chuck a shovel full on when they come here. But the truth is that on the occasions when we have needed them, such as on the vote on charges for spectacles and dentistry, when we came close to defeating the Government, what happened to the champions of PR? They were having a seminar somewhere, and I think that the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey was one of those who went missing--

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I realise that the hon. Member for Bolsover has been tempted by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), but I am sure that he will come back to the straight and narrow.

Mr. Skinner : I do not want to go down that road because I have dealt with why we have the revival motion. Labour Members understand why we have it and that it should be put right.

The Leader of the House has not had his job long. Other Leaders of the House threatened to change the procedure but never did so. Some were shifted because they were semi-detached and did not carry it through. I do not know what is in the Prime Minister's mind, but in this Session the deputy Prime Minister might have a chance to change the procedure. One thing that he could do that would make a massive difference to our view is to take some steps to ensure that the Associated British Ports (No.2) Bill is not given a Third Reading. He should have words with the authorities, as they call them in this place. He should bring out some new steps for the procedure and hold back the Bill. There may be some collaboration--I cannot guarantee that personally, but some of my hon. Friends might agree. Then, having established that good will, the procedure might be changed. The Leader of the House would have fewer headaches and the Government might return to using the private Bill procedure for what it is really intended-- those Bills that have come through in the normal fashion. The political Bills that I and other hon. Members have described should be shoved on to an agenda where they belong and be returned to the planning authorities. If that happens as a result of this discussion on the revival motion, it will have been worthwhile. 9.15 pm

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Sir Geoffrey Howe) : After the speech of the hon. Member foBolsover (Mr. Skinner), I have a little hesitation in responding to the invitation extended to me by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). However, I hope that it will still be helpful if I intervene in the context of this mass resurrection motion that is designed to correct the near-slaughter of the innocents that took place towards the end of the previous Session. I remind the House that the motion stands in the name of the Chairman of Ways and Means, but it was

Column 928

commended earlier in its life by my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), who is the Chairman of the Procedure Committee.

Private Bills do not always complete all their stages in one Session, but the promoters of such Bills have the right to expect the House to reach a decision on their proposals and to reach that decision--as hon. Members have pointed out--on the merits of the Bill, not as a consequence of procedural hazard. Our procedures allow for carry-over and revival motions. They exist to provide the framework--as they always have--within which we conduct business in the House, whether public or private. They exist for the effective operation of the House as a whole irrespective of the political complexion of the Government of the day. The diversity of the various private Bills referred to in the motion shows beyond doubt the wishes of their promoters for them to continue and the fact that the motion stands in the name of the Chairman of Ways and Means shows that he is satisfied that everything is in order.

The merits of the individual Bills have nothing to do with the motion. They have parents and godparents of various political and other persuasions. Several of my hon. Friends have spoken, including my hon. Friends the Members for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field), for Medway (Dame P. Fenner), for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) and

representatives from Nottingham and Redbridge. Opposition Members have also spoken, including the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Smith), who is not here now. I listened with some affection to his speech because the Vale of Glamorgan is the only part of Wales where members of my family still dwell. The last time I went to the Vale of Glamorgan was to try to prevent the hon. Gentleman from being elected, but I was not successful.

As many hon. Members have emphasised, private Bills should be considered and should pass or fail on their merits. There is no real reason for any of them to be grouped into a type of mass dismissal. We should consider the innocent and virtuous titles listed in the two schedules. The promoters of those Bills are entitled to a decision on the merits of the proposals and not to see the decision frustrated by procedure.

It is clear from what has been said by the hon. Member for Bolsover and others that some hon. Members either oppose the whole system of private legislation or oppose the present scope or pattern of it. We must deal with matters as they are on the basis of our existing procedures. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) was not alone when he suggested that some of these things would be better handled by means of planning inquiries. I am not an overwhelming enthusiast for the merits of planning inquiries, which have their own shortcomings. That may be a reason why private Bills have become a more attractive alternative. He suggested that they might be the subject of Government or hybrid Bills. They could be dealt with by other methods but this method has been used for many years. It is a route that exists and we should not allow our irritation with one route or one vehicle on that route to block the vehicles that have set out with high expectations.

On the substance of what to do about this procedure in the future, I have said to the House more than once that the whole question of the private Bill procedure is an important subject. However, I find increasingly that it is complex. At first, it appears to be rather obscure and procedural, as though it was dealing with topics of

Column 929

peripheral interest, but the more one looks at it, and the more one considers our debates here, the clearer it becomes that private Bills can and do deal with important topics.

The existing arrangements, which have worked quite well, have lasted for a long time under various Governments. It is important that any changes that we undertake should lead to an improvement in the overall balance of procedures and should be equally enduring. For that reason, we are looking at the matter not only with a real sense of urgency, but with some care. I am not sure that the Joint Committee has said the last word on what we should do. Following the debates earlier this year and my own learning curve on the subject, I am consulting a number of my right hon. Friends and colleagues from several parties to try to tackle the problem, which we must take seriously. I assure the House that our sense of urgency is genuine, and the contribution of the hon. Member for Bolsover underlines my feeling of that sense of urgency.

The reasons that prompted the Joint Committee to recommend major changes have not disappeared. Clearly, we need to deal with them, but because the changes may be substantial and difficult to work out, and may require wide consultation, I must warn the House that I cannot promise when we shall be able to come forward with them.

Mr. Simon Hughes : Can the Leader of the House say whether he hopes to be able to reach his own conclusions and to make recommendations this Session?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I hope to be able to reach conclusions and to bring them forward this Session, in whatever may be the appropriate place-- [Interruption.] That is a matter for consideration-- [Interruption.] It is not a bad answer for all that. It may be possible to deal with some points quite early, whereas others may require rather more substantial legislation.

Mr. Barry Field : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it would not be a major step for the House to accept the simple reform of ensuring that the names of hon. Gentlemen who object to a Bill are recorded in Hansard ? That would at least bring some accountability to this process.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : As with so many topics, several of the 39 different proposals that are contained in the Joint Committee report are simple and identifiable, such as the one mentioned by my hon. Friend, but one has to try to identify a group or groups with which to proceed, step by step, as effectively as we can.

As many hon. Members have said, this is an unusual motion, but it has arisen from unusual circumstances. It is a matter of real concern that the House has departed from the tradition of discussing and objecting to private Bills solely according to the merits of each of them. The attempt to tackle one Bill by directing an onslaught at a number of them at the same time has contributed to our present problems.

Like other hon. Members, I hope that revival motions will not become a habit and I hope that the tactics that have given rise to them will not become a habit. On that basis, we intend to go ahead with a study of the necessary changes and I intend to report back to the House as soon as I can. I hope that the House will accept and vote on the

Column 930

motion for what it is--a procedural motion directed to the Bills that are listed in the schedules to enable consideration of them to continue, as it should.

9.24 pm

Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin) : I welcome those remarks from the Leader of the House. In the style of certain television interviewers, let me repeat what he said so that there can be no misunderstanding about it. As I understand it, he will look at the procedure that so many hon. Members realise is deeply unsatisfactory with a real sense of urgency. If he does that, he will certainly have the co-operation of Opposition Members. Even during this brief debate a number of hon. Members have expressed their profound dissatisfaction with the procedure on private business. Private Bills affect environmental matters and circumvent planning procedures, and Bills that are clearly of national importance are dealt with under this procedure. It seems that we are substantially to revise and reform the procedure. Opposition Members look forward to that happening rapidly.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved ,


--the Promoters of every Private Bill which originated in this House in the last Session and which is listed in Schedule A to this Order, or which originated in the House of Lords in the last Session and which is listed in Schedule B to this Order may, notwithstanding anything in the Standing Orders or practice of this House, proceed with the Bill in the present Session ; and the Petition for the Bill shall be deemed to have been deposited and all Standing Orders applicable thereto shall be deemed to have been complied with ; --every such Bill which originated in this House shall be presented to the House not later than the seventh day after this day ; --there shall be deposited with every Bill so presented a Declaration signed by the Agent for the Bill, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill at the last stage of its proceedings in this House in the last Session ;

--every Bill so presented shall be laid by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office upon the Table of the House on the next meeting of the House after the day on which the Bill was presented ; --every Bill listed in Part I of Schedule A shall, after being so laid on the Table, be deemed to have been read the first, second, and third time, and shall pass ;

--every Bill listed in Part II of Schedule A shall, after being so laid on the Table, be deemed to have been read the first and second time and reported from Committee and ordered to lie upon the Table ; --when any Bill originating in the Lords, which was brought from the House of Lords in the last Session and to which this Order relates, is brought from the Lords in the present Session, the Agent for the Bill shall deposit in the Private Bill Office a Declaration, signed by him, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill which was brought from the Lords in the last Session, and, as soon as a certificate by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office that such a Declaration has been so deposited has been laid upon the Table of the House, the Bill shall be deemed--

(i) in the case of the Buckinghamshire County Council Bill [ Lords ], the London Local Authorities Bill [ Lords ], the South Yorkshire Light Rail Transit Bill [ Lords ] and the United Medical and Dental Schools Bill [ Lords ], to have been read the first and second time and committed and shall be committed to the Chairman of Ways and Means, who shall make such amendments thereto as have been made by the Committee in the last Session, and shall report the Bill as amended to the House forthwith, and the Bill, so amended, shall be ordered to lie upon the Table ;

(ii) in the case of the Nottingham Park Estate Bill [Lords] , to have been read the first and second time and committed ;

Column 931

(iii) in the case of the Medway Tunnel Bill [Lords] and the Vale of Glamorgan (Barry Harbour) Bill [Lords] , to have been read the first time and ordered to be read a second time ;

(iv) in the case of the Greater Manchester (Light Rapid Transit System) (No. 3) Bill [Lords], to have been read the first time and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills ; --in respect of all the Bills listed in Schedules A and B to this Order, the various stages deemed to have been taken shall be recorded in the Journal of this House as having been taken ;

--only such Petitions as were presented against any Bill brought from the Lords in the last Session which stood referred to the Committee on the Bill and which have not been withdrawn shall stand referred to the Committee on the Bill with the same title in the present Session ;

--in relation to any Bill to which this Order applies, Standing Order 127 relating to Private Business shall have effect as if the words "under Standing Order 126 (Reference to Committee of Petitions against Bill)" were omitted ;

--in respect of any Bill originating in the House of Lords to which this Order relates and upon which the Examiners have reported in the last Session that no Standing Order not previously inquired into was applicable thereto, the Examiners shall, if the Bill is brought from the Lords in the present Session, be deemed to have made the same report in the present Session ;

--no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on any of the Bills to which this Order relates so far as Fees were incurred during the last Session ;

--this House doth concur with the Lords in their Resolution contained in their Message [22nd November] relating to the River Tees Barrage and Crossing Bill [Lords], the Happisburgh Lighthouse Bill [Lords] , the Great Yarmouth Port Authority Bill [Lords], the Southampton Rapid Transit Bill [Lords] , the Heathrow Express Railway Bill [Lords] , the London Local Authorities (No. 2) Bill [Lords] and the Greater Manchester (Light Rapid Transit System) Bill [Lords].

Schedule A

Part I

1. City of London (Spitalfields Market) Bill

2. Hythe Marina Village (Southampton) Wavescreen Bill

3. Isle of Wight Bill

4. New Southgate Cemetery and Crematorium Limited Bill

5. St. George's Hill, Weybridge, Estate Bill

6. Penzance Albert Pier Extension Bill

Part II

1. British Film Institute Southbank Bill

2. British Railways Bill

3. City of London (Various Powers) Bill

4. Redbridge London Borough Council Bill

Schedule B

1. Buckinghamshire County Council Bill [Lords]

2. London Local Authorities Bill [Lords]

3. South Yorkshire Light Rail Transit Bill [Lords]

4. United Medical and Dental Schools Bill [Lords]

5. Nottingham Park Estate Bill [Lords]

6. Medway Tunnel Bill [Lords]

7. Vale of Glamorgan (Barry Harbour) Bill [Lords]

8. Greater Manchester (Light Rapid Transit System) (No. 3) Bill [Lords]

Next Section

  Home Page