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Sir Peter Emery : The hon. Gentleman asks, "Why not?". That might be a fair question, but I think it right that hon. Members understand this when we are looking at the motion on leave to bring in a Bill. What happened in the last Session was that hon. Members queued upstairs in the Committee Corridor sometimes for as long as four or five days. [Interruption.] I am told a fortnight. I can confirm four or five days, but it may have been longer. That, I believe, is immensely undignified.
Few hon. Members who play a leading role in the House can afford to spend up to a fortnight queuing. Balloting would enable the hon. Member for Bolsover to be in his place in the Chamber for questions. Hon. Members who play a major role in the House do not have the opportunity of a ten-minute Bill if the queueing system is abused. I am told that there is a working agreement to deal with this ; I hope only that that is not a carve-up. If we return to the undignified and insanitary situation of hon. Members queueing for days on end, we shall return to what has been widely accepted in the House as an unfair system.
Mr. Winnick : If queueing is so marvellous, as hon. Members seem to believe, why should not we queue for early-day motions or to be the first hon. Members on the list to ask the Prime Minister a question? Surely the logic of that would be along the lines suggested by the critics of balloting. If we ballot for other matters, why not for ten-minute Bills?
Sir Peter Emery : The hon. Gentleman--who is a member of my Committee, and I thank him for the work that he does for it--demonstrates impeccable logic--on this occasion, anyway. Balloting protects the rights of the majority of hon. Members, not the minority who are willing to queue for a fortnight, and it will assist hon. Members who wish to play a major role in the House. That needs to be said and to be understood.
I urge hon. Members to ensure that the first three motions are passed because they achieve a proper balance that will ensure that when an hon. Member wins the ballot for a private Member's Bill or private Member's motion the time allocated will not be interfered with by hon. Members using procedural methods to further other matters. I hope that the motion relating to introducing Bills on Budget day will be accepted and that the power to deal with ten-minute Bills will be held in reserve in case the procedure gets out of hand again.
Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) : There were times when I thought that the hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) was legislating for a House without people,
Column 484in which the reality of hon. Members wanting to pursue various causes was absent from our proceedings. I say that with some concern because I have worked with the hon. Gentleman for many years on the Procedure Committee, and I value the fairmindedness that he brings to its proceedings.
I am grateful to the Leader of the House for recognising the difficulty in which the House would have been placed if there had been a vote on all the motions without a proper opportunity to debate them. He responded helpfully to hon. Members' requests. We shall reach a decision on only one of the motions and deal with the others at a later date. However, the other motions have been introduced into the debate, so they must be considered.
The background to the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe) was more extensive than the hon. Member for Honiton suggested. He said that an issue arose in the debate on abortion--it also arose in a later debate on a Bill about embryos--but he must realise that the principle that he enunciated, that the balance of private Members' time must always be preserved, goes back a little further. The House would never have passed legislation on abortion at any time in the past 50 years unless the balance had been deliberately changed. The Abortion Act 1967 was passed in Government time. The Government decided that they would change the arrangements and make time available.
The hon. Gentleman must also take into account how the issue came to light. He must recognise that the purpose of the motion brought before the House at that time was to take more private Members' time. Those who did not like it thought that it was a smash-and-grab raid on private Members' time. However, it added hugely to private Members' time by allowing a Bill to be considered in a way that the Government would insist that a Bill of their own was considered if they could not get it through in the time available. They do that every week of the year, and sometimes every day of the week. It is no good hon. Members shedding crocodile tears and saying that we are here to protect private Members' time by ensuring that hon. Members do not grab more time than the Government are prepared to offer. The House was being invited to accept or reject a motion that would have given hon. Members more time than they are normally given by the Government.
Sir Peter Emery rose --
Mr. Beith : The hon. Gentleman did not give way to me. I would normally give way to him willingly, but he should learn that lesson.
Sir Peter Emery : May I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for not giving way? I was unaware that he was trying to catch my eye. Therefore, I will not interfere in his speech.
Mr. Beith : It is kind of the hon. Gentleman to say that. Hard cases make bad law. This matter has arisen from two occasions when hon. Members were lucky enough in the ballot to raise a subject of their choice. On the majority of occasions, the motion or resolution is debated and talked out. However, that offers the hon. Member an opportunity to ventilate an issue. It is rare that these circumstances arise, and it is likely that that will remain so.
Column 485The House must think carefully before changing its procedures in response to one or two incidents, because the House runs a risk when it does that. Not long ago, the Government lost business because the Consolidated Fund Bill ran through the night. There was a great panic and Front-Bench spokesmen said, "We must never let that happen again". They therefore changed the procedure for the Consolidated Fund Bill by introducing a regimented series of timed debates that offer no flexibility. That change was not justified on its merits but was made in response to a particular incident. It is always advisable to step back and think whether a change is desirable in the long term rather than as an appropriate response to an incident.
When I looked at the motion in more detail, I became even more anxious about its long-term desirability. It is a draconian motion--Henry VIII clauses have nothing on this--because it does not merely preclude hon. Members from extending the time available for a private Members' Bill or from jumping the queue ; it prevents them from changing any Standing Orders in private Members' time. That is one of the reasons why I tabled two amendments. There is no obvious reason for the motion.
Under the motion, Parliament is trying to bind its successors, which we are not supposed to do. The motion says not only that something will be the case but that no hon. Member can introduce a motion to change it. It is an attempt by Parliament to bind its successors by ensuring that an hon. Member cannot change the effect even of this Standing Order. The reason for including paragraph (e) was to stop hon. Members doing what the Government do so often--dispense with the effects of a Standing Order.
Paragraph (d) embraces the entire book of Standing Orders within the terms of the motion. If hon. Members decided that they were fed up with the arrangement by which they book a seat at Prayers in order to keep a seat for the day, and an hon. Member tabled a motion to change that, it would be ineffective because the Table Office would say, "Sorry. We cannot accept this motion."
If an hon. Member thought that we should change the Standing Orders so that we did not have to wear a top hat or otherwise to be seated and covered when raising a point of order during a Division, that hon. Member could not go to the Table Office and table a motion to make that change on a private Members' day. An hon. Member would be unlikely to want to do that, because there would undoubtedly be more pressing public issues that he would want to raise. So it is pointless even to prevent him from doing it.
I cannot understand why the Procedure Committee or the Leader of the House should table a motion to take away from private Members the right to put before the House changes in the Standing Orders, other than in a motion, which the Government can conveniently ignore, expressing an opinion. There is no point the Leader of the House saying that, if the House passes opinion motions, the effect of them would be carried out. He knows that such an assurance is worth no more than his tenure in office as Leader of the House.
All sorts of undertakings have been given from the Government Front Bench by the right hon. and learned Gentleman's predecessors to do all manner of things. An undertaking was once given by a predecessor of the right
Column 486hon. and learned Gentleman that there would be time for prayers against negative statutory instruments on the Floor of the House whenever such time was sought. That undertaking has been dishonoured almost every month in the life of Parliament while I have been here. So passing opinion motions is no good. The Government are taking away from private Members their right to invite the House to change our Standing Orders.
I do not know any local authority in Britain that would have a ruling that precluded councillors from bringing before councils motions to change their standing orders. Sometimes there are built-in procedures to make such a step more difficult, such as a larger number of members having to support a motion, or the necessity for a larger majority or the need for a set number of members to be present and voting in a division.
It would have been worth the House considering procedures of that type. But to say that private Members can never in any circumstances bring before the House an effective motion to change or modify the effect of our Standing Orders is an extraordinary, perverse and draconian step to take.
Sir Peter Emery : It is not as draconian as the hon. Gentleman suggests. The motion says, in effect, that unless the House has previously agreed that the motion shall come forward, it shall not come forward a second time. So there must be two bites at the cherry ; it cannot be done on one motion--there must be two. In other words, it is not that one can never do it but that one needs two, not one, motions to do it.
Mr. Beith : What is the effect of that? It means that one must come up in the ballot twice. The hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) said that in his time in the House he had not come up in the ballot once.
Mr. Beith : The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has been in the House longer than I have and he has never come up in the ballot for private Members' motions, though I am sure that his name has been put in every time. Now, we must come up not once but twice in the same Session of Parliament if we are to have some effect, or have a chum or croney say, "Never mind that I want to raise the question of the terrible plight of people in Cambodia or the question of the poverty of people in parts of the Berwick-upon-Tweed constituency. I will give my day to you so that you may have a second attempt at a debate."
The Chairman of the Procedure Committee and the Leader of the House are asking us to accept the inconceivable if they imagine that that is a reasonable process. It is not so bad if the Government must apply twice for something, because they have all the time in the world. They can easily appear twice before the House with a motion to achieve a change.
So the motion is shifting the balance of power from private Members to the Government. When I heard the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) supporting the motion, I realised that I was on the right side. When the Government and a spokesman of the Official Opposition get together, private Members are in trouble.
Dr. Cunningham : If the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) got as worked up about some of
Column 487the important political issues of the day as he does about the subject under discussion, he might be on the right side for once. I went through the process of consulting my colleagues in the parliamentary Labour party and in the shadow Cabinet before expressing my view on the Floor of the House. I made it clear that I was expressing a personal view. I hope that my hon. Friends will support me, but they all have a free vote.
Mr. Beith : I am delighted to hear that. The hon. Gentleman could not have been here for Prime Minister's Question Time, when I got quite worked up about the issue which has been occupying the House for most of the day. The hon. Gentleman made an unnecessary and gratuitous remark.
The Chairman of the Procedure Committee said that it was all part of a package. He said, in effect, "This is a restriction on private Members, but it is part of a package." One must be careful about suspicious packages, and we have been given plenty of advice to that effect. This package is particularly suspicious because it contains matters about which hon. Members were not originally aware and which go far beyond its original purpose.
It is also a package with an item missing. When the Procedure Committee decided on the package, it had before it an amendment for which five of the Committee had voted, including those who had voted for the other portions of the package. That amendment would have provided that as part of the deal private Members would have a limited version of the opportunity that Governments have to extend the time available for Bills that they put before the House. It was suggested that that should happen, not on a Friday --when there is the fear that it may be difficult for hon. Members, such as me, from distant constituencies, to be present--but on a Monday, so that private Members would have an opportunity to suspend the 10 o'clock rule in the way that the Government suspend it every day, and as they are doing today.
The Government must not complain, for on the Order Paper today is a motion to suspend the 10 o'clock rule so that they may have time to have the Civil Aviation Authority (Borrowing Powers) Bill considered. Five of the 11 members of the Procedure Committee wished to say that private Members should have that opportunity in a limited form on a Monday, but that is not in the package because it was defeated by six votes to five. As a result, it has become a notably unbalanced package.
We shall not vote on this issue tonight. We shall vote on the issue about ten-minute Bills on Budget day, which seems to be a product of televising the proceedings in the House of Commons. I was in favour of televising our proceedings, although that may have given rise to some odd results, and being embarrassed about having a ten-minute Bill moved on Budget day seems to be one of them.
I cannot work up any enthusiasm for the idea that we must deny hon. Members the chance of bringing forward a Bill on that day. I accept that it is not the loss of a slot, that it is fair to private Members overall, and that such opportunity will be available on the following Monday. But I cannot bring myself to rescue the Government from the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) who added to the proceedings usefully when he brought forward budget proposals of his own.
Column 488On the motion that the ten-minute Bill procedure should change and that we should move to a ballot, instead of hon. Members having to queue, a finely balanced argument exists. There is something to be said for endeavour and for procedures that reflect an hon. Member's determination to raise an issue. People outside the House do not realise how much we have become dependent on the lottery and the ballot.
Most of our constituents imagine that we raise issues in the House because of our preparedness to get stuck in and because we are determined to speak out and say our piece. Up to a point that is the case, but it is not the case for many things, including private Members' Bills, motions, questions to the Prime Minister and questions to individual Ministers. These are all a lottery, a ballot, but the ten-minute Bill procedure is down to endeavour. The endeavour may, however, become rather disproportionate when it involves hon. Members having to occupy sleeping bags for three or four days. Nevertheless, I consider it to be a finely balanced issue. When compared with the motions that will come before the House later, the issue on which we will vote tonight does not seem to raise great excitement. A whole shift in the balance of power between the Government and private Members over the opportunity to invite the House to consider our procedures is a fundamental change which is undesirable and should not arise simply because one incident caused some argument and controversy at the time.
Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone) : I, too, am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for agreeing not to move all the motions that have been tabled. The time allowed is, in any case, totally insufficient when we are sweeping away private Members' rights, some of which date back to 1927. So I am grateful to him for agreeing to postpone four of the debates. The result is that I am able to support the one motion, but I hope that when the various issues return to the House, adequate time for debate will be provided.
I make that point particularly to you, Mr. Speaker, as the guardian of Back -Benchers' rights. We should not have such sweeping motions, five all bunched together, in such a confined space of time. My right hon. and learned Friend will have taken account of the fact that during business questions and in this debate substantial feeling has been expressed by hon. Members in all parts of the House about the way in which the motions could be ill-advised. We must debate them thoroughly and reach proper conclusions.
It is unfortunate that the motion is in the name of the Leader of the House rather than in the name of the Chairman of the Procedure Committee. Although we are to have a free vote--as there must be as we are concerned with procedure and Back-Benchers' rights--because it stands in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend, there is bound to be moral pressure on many hon. Members to support the motion. Great as is my respect for the Chairman of the Procedure Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), the moral pressure on hon. Members would be somewhat less if the motions stood in his name.
I am happy to agree with the Chairman of the Procedure Committee on motions Nos. 2, 3 and 4, but I
Column 489dissent strongly on motions Nos. 1 and 5. My right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House inadvertently misled us when he said that it was a choice between a ballot, which is a parliamentary euphemism for a lottery, and queueing. That is not the question. The problems that arose last year with queueing did not arise as a result of private Members' initiatives. No private Member queues for four or five days. Private Members were queueing quite happily for a reasonable time to get a Bill. I speak from personal experience. As my hon. Friend the Chairman of the Procedure Committee kindly pointed out, I have not been here long, but even in that time I have managed to get two ten-minute Bills by queueing only for a couple of hours. The procedure got out of hand--and the House should understand this--when the Government and Opposition Front Benches became involved and decided to turn the matter into an inter-party competition. The procedure then became similar to the procedure for Prime Minister's questions when all hon. Members are reminded to go in for it. It became similar to the way we sign the book of motions, when hon. Members stand in the Lobbies exhorting other hon. Members to sign them. Suddenly, the whole procedure was no longer a Back-Bench initiative, but an inter- party competition. If that element is taken out of the procedure and it is returned to the Back Benchers, we shall not be queueing for four or five days any more than we have in the past. Had this matter been left to the good sense of the Back-Bench Members none of this would have arisen in the first place. My right hon. and learned Friend has not given the House the whole picture--inadvertently, I am sure. However, I have described the background against which the issue should be examined.
At present, hon. Members queue for ten-minute Bills and obtain them by initiative. It is the only remaining slot not governed by a draw from a hat or by having to rely on being lucky in a raffle. If an hon. Member wants to raise a pressing piece of constituency business, a conscience issue or another matter, all he has to do is to have a bit of endurance and initiative. It is deeply offensive that we should be told that one of the reasons for changing the system is that the Clerks object to us sitting in their room. For whom does this House exist? Is it for the benefit of the Clerks or of hon. Members? It is for the benefit of hon. Members, so that argument should carry no weight with us. If we queue in the Clerks' room for a fortnight--which I have never seen done--that is our right and it should not matter what they say.
I shall inevitably be seen as having a specific interest in motion No. 1 inasmuch as I have used the procedure. That is true, but although that procedure has been used twice on a pro-life issue, the fact remains that it is open to be used on any issue. It cannot be abused in quite the way that other motions are abused because it depends on an extremely rare combination of circumstances. First, an hon. Member must have a Bill sufficiently high in the ballot to avoid accusations of blatant queue- jumping. If his Bill is Nos. 18, 19 or 20, this procedure will not commend itself greatly to the House. Secondly, either he or a sympathiser must draw first place in the ballot for private Members' motions on a Friday. Thirdly, the sympathiser must do that in time to influence the passage of the Bill. It is no good coming first in the ballot two months after the
Column 490Bill has failed and all other Bills are on Report. The combination of circumstances is so rare that it is not surprising that it has happened only twice in the last decade. Do we need to take a sledgehammer to crack something that occurs only twice in a decade? Statistically it is not worth bothering about.
There is a distinction between that procedure and the procedure for petitions and by-election writs. If an hon. Member decides to move a by- election writ, as the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) did, there is nothing that the House can do to prevent him under the present rules. He can stand up, move his writ and talk about the Yorkshire weather for three hours five minutes, and there is nothing that the House can do to prevent it. If 500 other hon. Members want to debate the alternative business, which is first on the Order Paper, there is still nothing that they can do. If 50 hon. Members decide to move petitions, there is nothing that the House can do to stop them. But if an hon. Member comes to the House and asks for extra time, the House can say "No". The difference is between the House having the final say and private Members being able to use their own initiative to be obstructive.
Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop : There is nothing to prevent a Back-Bench Member from moving the closure on a speech for moving a petition. That is perfectly in order.
Miss Widdecombe : That is wrong, as I found to my own cost and from my own experience. Until it has been proposed and until the proposer has sat down, an hon. Member cannot move the closure. The House has no sanction over that, but it has a sanction over a private Member who wants to obtain extra time. A private Member may want to do that for two reasons. First, he or she may consider that his or her Bill is so vital that the House must grant it extra time. If the House decides against that, the House can say "No" and no harm is done, except that that hon. Member has wasted a whole morning in putting forward a motion with which the House has no sympathy. Secondly, an hon. Member may ask the House for redress. Perhaps the hon. Member has been subject to considerable filibustering, to disruptive tactics or to an ingenious use of parliamentary devices. That hon. Member may come to the House to say, "I know that we have a majority for this Bill. That has already been demonstrated on Second Reading. I have been prevented from proceeding and I ask the House for justice." The House can still say "No". That is the point of motion No. 1. The House already has sanctions, and there is no need to extend them. The issue of a low vote on Fridays has been raised. My right hon. and learned Friend knows what happens here on Fridays. If there is a very unpopular motion or Bill, a low vote will not enable it to proceed. Some hon. Member who is as well endowed with eloquence as the hon. Member for Bolsover will talk all morning, thereby forcing a closure motion. But if fewer than 100 hon. Members vote, that closure cannot be carried. An unpopular Bill or motion cannot be carried on a low vote on a Friday. The case advanced today has been made on a set of false assumptions that bear no relation to what happens here, to what has gone wrong with queueing for ten-minute Bills, to what goes on when the House can say "No" to a request for extra time or to what happens on Friday when a low vote, as my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) knows well, can be fatal to a Bill.
Column 491This is a serious assault on Back-Bench time. In 1927, one of your predecessors, Mr. Speaker, ruled that it was not in the specific competence of the Government to move motions relating to time and additional time, or to move any motion relating to the business of the House. He said that it was down to any hon. Member,
"providing he can find the time to do so."
At present, the only way that he can find time to do so is through the most uncertain process of a ballot, which is a euphemism for a lottery. Are we going to take even that small, pathetic, last little hope away from Back- Bench Members? Are not the motions really about the balance of power between the Executive and Back-Bench Members? Motions Nos. 1 and 5 do not protect Private Members' time, but reduce our already very small rights still further.
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : I agree with the hon. Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe) about the balance of power between the two Front Benches and the Back Benches. During the 20 years that I have been here, there have been several instances when, because of Back-Bench activity, the two Front Benches have got together and managed to find a system to enable them to stop the limited power of the Back Benches.
The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) talked about the Consolidated Fund Bill. That was a classic. We used to be able to keep the Government up. We once managed to prevent the Secretary of State for the Environment from carrying out the important policy measure of selling off old peoples' bungalows. The Government measure had to be brought back, but it was not until much later. What happened? The Front Benches got together and decided to curtail Back-Bench activity. Now the Consolidated Fund Bill finishes at 9 o'clock, by order, as a result of the changes that took place. Such changes cannot be good for any Back Bencher. That power was used by the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) when the Labour party was in government. He and his mates used it successfully one morning. We understand that such Back-Bench activity can take place whichever party is in power.
I oppose all five motions. I will not pick and choose. Unlike the hon. Lady, I think that we should oppose all five, because they are part of a package, as the Chairman of the Select Committee on Procedure, the hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), said. When the Adjournment motion is debated in the summer and at Christmas, hon. Members can raise matters concerning their constituencies or whatever. The practice used to be that if an hon. Member went on beyond three hours, the Government had to have a majority of 100 to closure the debate. If the Government did not have a majority of 100, we carried on. What was wrong with that? But what happened? The Government said, "It is terribly bad having to keep 100 people here a day before the hols. Would it not be a good idea to get together and finish the debate after three hours, by an order of the House?" My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) joined me and, I think, my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) on one occasion in voting against the Government. It would be interesting to look at Hansard --
Mr. Don Dixon (Jarrow) : I did not.
Mr. Skinner : My hon. Friend says that he did not.
Mr. Dixon : I am not joining my hon. Friend tonight.
Mr. Skinner : That suggests that my hon. Friend did join us on the other occasion. We voted against the Government because we felt that it was necessary to stop the two Front Benches joining together and taking away Back-Bench opportunities.
My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) has a point. He says that these are only minor things, and that we need much bigger changes. If the Government Front Bench, together with the Opposition Front Bench, said that they intended to reform the House of Commons lock, stock and barrel, by having full-time Members and stopping moonlighting and boozing, by clocking on and clocking off and starting at a proper time, that would be all right.
I would not mind coming to work before the streets are aired. Some of us used to work like that before we came here, so it would not be hard for us to get here at 9 o'clock. We used to be at work at 6 o'clock in the morning. Such reforms would give more power to Back Benchers. Sadly, we are living not in that world but in a world that has been fashioned by the nobs and snobs of yesteryear. This is a quaint little place, based on the Eton debating society. We could choose not to come in ; we could say that it is not for us, or we can learn the rules and destabilise. That is what I have been doing for about 20 years. I am not keen on throwing all that experience away.
Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North) : I hope that my hon. Friend is not saying that he has a vested interest in preserving the present system.
Mr. Skinner : No. I have already made the point that I want to see changes, but only a few of us are keen on developing a system of full-time Members of Parliament and proper hours. I get the impression that things will not change before I leave the House, so I have to use the system. That is why I oppose these intrusions on Back-Bench activity. I am pleased that the Leader of the House has caught on to the idea that it would be good if he managed not to upset everybody. That is why he is moving only one motion tonight, the one relating to Budget day.
If the Chairman of the Select Committee on Procedure wanted to bring in a package, why did he not propose the curtailment of some activities that are not liked by the elite, but at the same time give Back Benchers other rights? We could have had 10 motions instead of five--five to curtail activities and five to give Back Benchers more opportunities. For instance, the Government might have proposed that Front-Bench speeches should not last more than 20 minutes. Part of the total package might have been extra Adjournments for Back-Bench Members.
Sir Peter Emery : We have suggested that.
Mr. Skinner : It is not in the package ; I cannot see it.
Sir Peter Emery : It is in our report.
Mr. Skinner : Oh, it is in a report. It is buried in a report ; it is as deep as that. The hon. Gentleman used his diving skill to bury it. I am talking about the package that is before the House. Hon. Members know that the reason for the five new measures is mainly the television cameras. They are all about regulations for the cameras. Everywhere the television cameras have gone, they have managed to
Column 493fashion the activities that they screen. We now have football matches starting at five past 3 on a Sunday. Why? Because it suits television. On occasions, horse racing is stopped because it is not synchronised with a rugby league match.
The reason the Government want to tidy up the procedure is to make sure that the television authorities know what is happening on a Friday and to ensure that there will not be extra activity. The Government do not want ten-minute Bills before the Budget, because it is not nice for the Chancellor. They do not want such activity. That is wrong. Why should we give in to the television moguls? Not all the motions relate to Fridays, but the Friday bit is important for the Leader of the House. He has latched on quickly. He has been gallivanting round the world, but this is not the United Nations. As Leader of the House, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has to come here regularly at half past 3 and has to stay late at night. It suddenly dawned on him that he has to be here on a Friday as well. One thing he can do is make sure that he does not need 100 hon. Members here on a Friday too often. What does he do? He says that he will curtail the activities of hon. Members. So part of the package is to make the task of the Government easier.
On the question of queueing for ten-minute Bills, I suggest that the Leader of the House should have a site meeting before he changes the procedure. The right hon. and learned Gentleman can go with my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) when he is queueing for a Bill to give pensioners a better lot. He can get his sleeping bag, a little television set and his sandwiches.
Mr Skinner : No, no drink. If the Leader of the House does that, he will get a better picture of what takes place.
The hon. Member for Maidstone was upset about moving writs and so on. She will be surprised to learn that I am not against the idea of hon. Members using the opportunity to combine a motion and a Bill. There may be occasions when the procedure is not right, but not on the subject on which the hon. Lady used it, nor on the one on which Enoch Powell used it. I do not think the House wanted the hon. Lady's Bill ; otherwise, hon. Members would not have let me get away with what I did. By and large, most hon. Members said, "It is not a bad idea, because we would only be here on Saturday and Sunday ; Skinner is saving us the weekend."
If an hon. Member had an important case and got a high place, not No. 7 but No. 2, the Bill would go through. One Bill goes through and the other does not. Two more Bills have gone through quickly on the first occasion. That means that three Bills have gone into Committee, but one that has drawn the No. 2 place will have some difficulty because there are already three Bills in Committee.
Hon. Members may say, "That is unfair : there are three Bills in Committee, and the one that has drawn the No. 2 place has not a cat in hell's chance." Two more Bills may get through, and then it is all over. I think that, on an occasion when a Bill suits the majority of hon. Members, the House might decide that it would not be a bad idea if--by a fluke--the motion to get it through was passed. I
Column 494might not even move a writ to stop it ; I might encourage it. There are such occasions, albeit caused by flukes or accidents.
Miss Widdecombe : That happened to Powell's Bill.
Mr. Skinner : It did not, because Powell used a surrogate. Powell's Bill was all about embryo research
It being Seven o'clock, Mr. Speaker-- put the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Order [26 January].
The House divided : Ayes 209, Noes 38.
Division No. 62] [7 pm
Alison, Rt Hon Michael
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Bevan, David Gilroy
Blackburn, Dr John G.
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Browne, John (Winchester)
Buck, Sir Antony
Buckley, George J.
Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Cope, Rt Hon John
Cunningham, Dr John
Currie, Mrs Edwina
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Davis, David (Boothferry)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Emery, Sir Peter
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Fookes, Dame Janet
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Fox, Sir Marcus
Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Hampson, Dr Keith
Hordern, Sir Peter
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
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)
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Irving, Sir Charles
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael