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House of Commons

Friday 13 May 1994

The House met at half-past Nine o'clock


[ Madam Speaker-- -- in the Chair ]

Points of Order

9.34 am

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. There have been enormous and tragic developments since last Friday's debate on the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. Have you had any indication from the Government that, given the events of the past week, they plan to come to the House to make a statement about allowing extra time for that Bill to be given a proper Report stage ? I understand that such an indication could have been made, and I should be grateful if you could say whether that is correct.

Madam Speaker : I have had no indication from the Government of any statement that they are likely to make on that matter at this stage.

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sorry not to have given you notice of my point of order, which involves a correction to the Official Report for ll May that is of some importance. In line 22 of column 386 it is reported : "Because a Committee of 60"--

the Deregulation Committee

"cannot cover every interest".--[ Official Report , 11 May 1994 ; Vol. 243, c. 386.]

It is a typographical error--the figure should be 16--but it makes a great deal of difference. Could it be noted ?

Madam Speaker : It does make a great difference, and I am sure that it will be noted in the correct quarters.

Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Last week, on the Report stage of a private Member's Bill--the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill--the Order Paper was deluged with 80 new clauses and amendments. Today, on the Report stage of another private Member's Bill--the Tobacco Advertising Bill--there are, I believe, more than 100 new clauses and amendments. Although we are all familiar with the fact that opponents of a Bill take advantage of the procedural opportunities available to them, and although they are entitled, formally at least, to use those procedural opportunities, I submit that that is not a responsible or respectable way for the House to do its business.

I therefore invite you, Madam Speaker, as the custodian of good order, to invite the Procedure Committee, whose Chairman, my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), is in the House today, to consider whether in future the debate of a private Member's Bill on Second Reading should be timetabled. That would ensure that the House had an opportunity to debate the proposals fully and to reach a conclusion. If we fail to do that, we bring Parliament into disrepute and fail in our duties as legislators.

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Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe) : Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. I have set down on today's Order Paper a question in the following terms :

"To ask the Lord President of the Council how many amendments for consideration at the Report stage of the Tobacco Advertising Bill have been drafted by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel ; and on whose instructions such amendments were drafted."

That question need not be answered until noon today or afterwards, by which time amendments will have been debated without our knowing whether any of the amendments on the Order Paper are, in truth, Government amendments to the Bill. Clearly it would be helpful to the House to have that information this morning. I hope that the Leader of the House can be persuaded to help us, especially in view of the odious treatment last Friday of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill and all that has followed since.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) : Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. You will recall that the Energy Conservation Bill faced 216 amendments and new clauses, all of which--this was not denied by the Government at the time--were drafted by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel and tabled on identical sheets of paper produced by that office.

I have written to the Chairman of the Procedure Committee asking whether that Committee will look at the development of what I regard as a new Government tactic in relation to private Members' Bills. The Government table no--or hardly any--amendments in Committee, thereby depriving hon. Members of the opportunity to use the Committee stage for detailed consideration of Bills. They save all the amendments and deluge the House with them on Report, with no object other than to delay the Bill.

Is it possible for you, Madam Speaker, to state that you would find it helpful if the Procedure Committee considered the matter that I put to it ?

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Speaker : Order. We shall not make much progress today.

Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North) : Further to the point of order raised by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), Madam Speaker, which related to who had tabled the amendments and the new clauses, and whether they were Government-inspired or drafted by the Parliamentary Counsel. It would perhaps be helpful to you to know that myself and my hon. Friends tabled those amendments without any help from-- indeed, I might say, with the hindrance of--the Department of Health. The Department gave me no assistance whatsoever. If it is helpful, I can give you, Madam Speaker, a categorical assurance that all of the amendments and new clauses in my name--and, I believe, those of my hon. Friends, although they may speak for themselves--are totally of my own volition. Of course, they were drafted with the assistance of others from outside this place. [Hon. Members :-- "Oh."] That is quite usual. The hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron), whose Bill it is, admitted in Committee that he had received considerable help from Action on Smoking and Health and others. At no time did

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the Government give myself or any of my hon. Friends any assistance whatsoever in drafting the amendments and new clauses.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West) : Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. Would not it help in the consideration of the good reputation of this House, and to absolve the House and hon. Members of any accusations that they might have acted in any way improperly, if all hon. Members who speak in the debate make absolutely clear--beyond the House's normal declaration of interest--any consideration which they may have outside, and declare whether they have made financial gain in the past, or are likely to do so in the future, for themselves or their party from the tobacco industry ?

Madam Speaker : The Tobacco Advertising Bill is an important Bill. Hon. Members who raise points of order which are really matters for debate are holding up the proceedings on the Bill.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Carlisle : On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker : I have heard a point of order from the hon. Gentleman, and quite a long one at that, and other hon. Members are on their feet.

I caution hon. Members that I am not asking for explanations or statements. If hon. Members wish to raise points of order with which I can deal, I am ready to respond and the House will be happy to hear what I have to say. However, hon. Members are delaying the proceedings on the Bill with points of order.

Hon. Members : On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker : The House is insisting on continuing with points of order. There are six hon. Members on their feet.

Mr. Roger Berry (Kingswood) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) asked whether any amendments had been drafted by the Parliamentary Counsel. He also asked whether the information could be provided before the conclusion of the debate this morning. Last Friday, it was denied that there had been any involvement by Parliamentary Counsel--until ten minutes after the debate ended, when we received a written communication pointing out that all 80 amendments had been drafted by Parliamentary Counsel. It is in the interests of the House that we should be told this morning who drafted the amendments.

Madam Speaker : The hon. Gentleman is repeating the point made by the right hon. Member for Wythenshawe.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I support the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, and I voted for it last week. However, is not there a dangerous illiberality in the House ? Hon. Members may be inhibited from speaking today

Madam Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman is drifting into debate, and I am seeking from him a point of

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order for me. If the hon. Gentleman has a point of order, I must listen to it. I do not want to get into debate at this stage.

Mr. Greenway : I ask you, Madam Speaker, not to condone--I am sure you would not--any illiberality in the House. Hon. Members have the right to speak, as they have done previously. I have been here when important Bills were scuppered by hon. Members sitting where the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) sits. Then, a small number of people scuppered Bills about which the House was passionate.

Madam Speaker : That was very robust, but the Speaker cannot control what hon. Members have to say--they can say what they want.

Ms Liz Lynne (Rochdale) : Further to the points of order raised by the hon. Members for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) and for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle), Madam Speaker. May we know before the close of business how many amendments were drafted by Parliamentary Counsel ? I know that the matter has been raised before, but I think that it is important.

Mr. William Cash (Stafford) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sure that your office would be able to identify at least one precedent, and perhaps many others, when the Labour party was in government--for example, the Protection of Children Bill in 1977, which I took some part in preparing--and went to considerable lengths to table sheets of amendments to destroy the Bill. I think that the matter ought to be put into perspective, because the Labour party acted in a similar manner when it was in government.

Madam Speaker : That was barely a point of order for me, and it was a total waste of the House's time.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Had there been a business statement yesterday, I would have asked the Leader of the House what intention he and the Government had regarding the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, in view of the motion that was passed two Fridays ago which gave instructions to the Government to provide additional time for the Bill.

In answer to the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway), who talked about scuppering Bills, let me make it plain that I never used Parliamentary Counsel--Government or otherwise--to help me. What I did I did up front ; and, what is more, I never tabled one amendment. My actions were straightforward ; anyone could see where I was coming from. On the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, the Tories were hiding behind

Madam Speaker : Order. This is not a time for an explanation of votes and amendments. We have business before us which we need to get on with.

Sir Jerry Wiggin (Weston-super-Mare) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. It may not be to your knowledge, but I understand that the tobacco industry and the Department of Health have been engaged in their normal negotiations on the subject of tobacco advertising. They have, to a large extent, reached an agreement, but it was reached only in the late hours of yesterday evening. In the circumstances, it would be hypocritical of the Department

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of Health to support the Bill. On the one hand, they are reaching a voluntary agreement with the industry, while, on the other

Madam Speaker : Order. That has nothing to do with the Chair.

Sir Jerry Wiggin : It has.

Madam Speaker : Order. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the Chair. The hon. Gentleman must raise those matters in debate, and I refuse to allow him to go on with his point of order.

Sir Jerry Wiggin rose

Madam Speaker : The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat : I am on my feet.

Sir Jerry Wiggin : On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker : Order. I say seriously to the hon. Gentleman that he is raising interesting points which the House will want to hear at the appropriate time. However, they are not points of order. I ask the hon. Gentleman to contain himself and to use the information in the debate. He is not raising a point of order.

Sir Jerry Wiggin : I had not finished.

Madam Speaker : Order. If there is a point of order for me, I must listen to it, but I do not want an argument.

Sir Jerry Wiggin : It is a substantive matter, and I had not reached my point of order. I was simply painting the scene. In circumstances in which the Department of Health feels obliged to seek to amend the Bill, will you, Madam Speaker, accept amendments today on this important matter in the light of what took place last night ? I apologise if I did not get to the point earlier.

Madam Speaker : I am not aware of what took place last night.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill is likely to return to the Floor of the House next Friday, but it is only third on the list. Is there any way in which you, knowing the feelings of hon. Members and of the public, could speak with the Chairman of the Procedure

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Committee and the Department of Social Security to ensure that adequate time is given and that we do not have any false amendments tabled this time ?

Madam Speaker : Those on the Treasury Bench will have heard the point raised by the hon. Lady, as will the whole House. I can make no further comment at this stage.

As for the questions about amendments which may or may not have been drafted by Parliamentary Counsel, under our procedure answers to questions on any issue are not available until 12 o'clock today. If we are allowed to proceed with the debate, that could be perhaps one of the first questions which could be put to the Minister. The hon. Member for Kingswood and the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed raised the important issue of the Procedure Committee. The right hon. Gentleman has taken the initiative of writing to the Chairman of the Procedure Committee, who happens to be in the House at present. He undoubtedly heard what the hon. Member for Kingswood had to say, and will also be aware of the feeling of the House.

Sir Peter Emery rose

Madam Speaker : There need not be any response from the Chairman of the Procedure Committee. He is well aware of the feelings of the House this morning on the subject.

Mr. Peter Griffiths (Portsmouth, North) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is different, but I am sure that it is a point of order. Can you confirm for the benefit of the House, especially hon. Members who are present this morning, that all the amendments which appear on the amendment paper are in order ?

Madam Speaker : All the amendments that have been selected are certainly in order.


Firearms (Amdt)

Mr. Michael Shersby presented a Bill to create a new offence of possessing a firearm or imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence ; to apply certain provisions of the Firearms Act 1968 to imitation firearms ; and for connected purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 20 May, and to be printed. [Bill 110.]

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Orders of the Day

Tobacco Advertising Bill

As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

9.51 am

Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. After so many points of order, I regret asking you to deal with a completely fresh point of order. We have your list of selection of amendments for this morning. When I first saw it, I thought that there had been a typographical error in so far as none of the new clauses had been selected. Of course, I understand that you have absolute discretion in what shall be discussed, but I must ask you why none of the new clauses has been selected, especially new clause 3, which stands in my name.

New clause 3 calls for a report from the Secretary of State for Health on any voluntary agreement which may be either in negotiation or signed between the Department and the industry. I understand that the matter was not discussed at any stage in Committee. It seems to be a substantial and important new clause. Indeed, this morning would perhaps allow the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State to make a statement on the state of negotiations with the industry as reached late last night.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle) : Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. New clause 3 goes to the heart of the Bill because it raises the question whether we should proceed by voluntary agreement. That is a philosophical point, and it is the reason why I oppose the Bill. I simply wonder whether there is any other group of amendments on which we might raise the subject of voluntary agreements because it is central to what we are talking about. The Government are in the midst of negotiating a voluntary agreement--apparently, they finished their negotiations last night--so it is absolutely central to the Bill.

Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North) : Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker : Order. There is no need for a further point of order. The House should already know that the Speaker never gives reasons for the non-selection of new clauses or amendments. However, the hon. Gentlemen who have raised points of order might look at the new clause again and see whether they feel that it is consistent with the Bill as it passed through the House on Second Reading. That is the only response that I shall give.

Clause 1 --

Publication of advertisements for tobacco products

Sir Trevor Skeet (Bedfordshire, North) : I beg to move amendment No. 39, in page 1, line 7, at end insert

and for the purposes of this section, an advertisement shall not be deemed to have been published if it is comprised in or enclosed with a card, letter or other document sent by a person to one or more persons'.

Madam Speaker : With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments : No. 78, in page 2, line 6, leave out specific tobacco product', and insert

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tobacco product manufactured or supplied by a person so engaged'. No. 79, in page 2, line 7, leave out from first

the' to end of line 7.

No. 18, in page 2, line 9, after engaged', insert

or to persons or bodies representing those so engaged'. No. 95, in page 2, line 12, after name', insert

(in a format different from the format of their name as used in any advertisement for a tobacco product prior to the coming into force of this Act)'.

No. 2, in page 2, line 13, at end insert-- or

(iii) was displayed in or on items of stationery and office or manufacturing equipment for the primary purpose of indicating the source or ownership of such items'.

No. 17, in page 2, line 13, at end insert-- or

(iii) was contained in a directory of business information published by a person not so engaged'.

No. 28, in page 2, line 13, at end, insert-- or

(iii) was comprised in a sign upon or indicating the location of the registered office or other premises of a person so engaged'. No. 23, in page 2, line 19, leave out (i)'.

No. 22, in page 2, leave out lines 21 to 25.

No. 98, in page 2, line 24, leave out had been' and insert could reasonably be expected to have been'.

No. 99, in page 2, line 26, leave out from production' to second of' in line 27.

No. 16, in page 3, line 26, after communication', insert to the public'.

No. 107, in page 3, line 26, leave out from which' to

the' in line 27 and insert promotes'.

No. 30, in page 3, line 27, leave out from product' to whether' in line 28.

No. 29, in page 3, line 29, after first of', insert or contained within'.

No. 42, in page 3, line 30, leave out retail'.

No. 57, in page 3, line 34, leave out from

product' to end of line 34.

No. 85, in page 3, line 44, leave out from advertisement' to is' in line 45.

No. 43, in page 3, line 45, leave out or similar to'.

No. 86, in page 3, line 46, leave out from feature' to which' in line 47.

No. 60, in page 3, line 47, leave out is associated with' and insert

prior to the coming into force of this Act, has been used for the advertisement of'.

No. 11, in page 4, line 7, at end add

(10) For the avoidance of doubt, the communication of words delivered orally only in a context in which no advertisement for a tobacco product is intended including words so delivered in a radio or television programme, shall not be treated as such an advertisement.'.

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