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Points of Order

3.31 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Is not there an understanding in the House--although it is not enshrined in "Erskine May"--that before there is any prospect of British service men being committed to military action, the House of Commons has a chance to discuss the merits or otherwise of such action? Against that background--and the carriers going through the Suez canal--I ask whether any Minister has suggested that a statement might be made today on the critical talks between Mr. Richard Butler, who has described them as "the defining moment", and the Iraqi authorities. I know that you have given my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Mr. Cohen) an Adjournment debate tomorrow on the position of the children of Iraq, but the situation warrants an early statement from a senior Minister.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North): Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. I take a different point of view from that of my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), but the point that he made should be carefully considered.

A statement should be made to the House as soon as possible, because then we could have an exchange of opinions, as we have had on previous occasions--including my private notice question on the situation in Iraq. Many of us believe that it is necessary to ensure that we do not give in to the blackmail of the Iraqi dictator and notorious mass murderer. In those circumstances, I would welcome an early statement.

Madam Speaker: I have not been informed, as the House knows, that the Government have sought to make a statement on that matter today. The House will notice that the Leader of the House is present on the Front Bench, and has no doubt heard the points of order that have been put to me on the matter.

Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is the normal expectation in the House that Members who expect to make a financial gain from legislation make a declaration during the passage of that legislation. In the Scotland Bill and the Government of Wales Bill, no limits are set on the income of those who may seek to have a dual mandate by sitting in this House and one of the other bodies, or in one of the other bodies alone. I wonder whether you could give us guidance, before Committee stage, that those who seek such a dual mandate should declare their interest before making a speech in the House.

Madam Speaker: The hon. Gentleman is trying to tease the House. When we reach an appropriate stage in the Committee proceedings, he might care to raise the matter so that it can be considered.

20 Jan 1998 : Column 818

Parliamentary Boundary Commissions (Amendment)

3.33 pm

Mr. Richard Page (South-West Hertfordshire): I beg to move,

The Bill stems from my natural care, concern and compassion for my fellow Members of Parliament. The House will remember that, on 1 May, despite the Government of the day having given the country the best set of economic circumstances for decades, the public decided to give a large number of Conservative Members the opportunity to spend more time with their families. That did not happen to me, but from me were taken my red boxes, which I do not much regret, and my ministerial car, which I miss greatly.

When I settled into the spacious green Benches on this side of the Chamber, I looked across and saw an horrific sight: Labour Members--new Labour, old Labour, new Members, old Members--crammed together, cheek by jowl, hip to hip, thigh to thigh, in a most unsatisfactory sardine-like condition. My concern grew when I learned--not many people know this--that 50 Labour Members are sent home every week to spend more time with their families and constituencies because they are not needed in Parliament.

That made me think even more. The conditions on the Labour Benches are sometimes such that, if this was an industry and we had a visit from a health and safety officer, he would not hesitate to close the whole lot down on the ground of unsanitary or unsafe conditions. It is time to start considering reducing the number of Members of Parliament, because the situation has changed.

So much European Union legislation is now done by the Commission or the Council of Ministers that the House just does some rubber-stamping. There is an argument for reconsidering how we handle European legislation. The Scottish Parliament is working its way down the track; it will take time and powers away from the House. The same is true of the Welsh assembly; our next business will remove powers from this House and give them to the Welsh assembly. The various regional bodies that are to be set up will again take power from the House. The amount of legislative work is not as great as it used to be.

Under schedule 2 to the 1986 Act, we cannot have fewer than 613 Members of Parliament. The way that it is set up, with minimum numbers of Members for Scotland and Wales, predicates to the boundary commissioners that every review must mean that the number of seats goes up. We are now at the large number of 659. Over the next four or five Parliaments, it should be reduced to about 400 to 450, with 100,000 people per Member of Parliament.

People will argue that turkeys will not vote for Christmas, but I believe that my Bill would make the job of an MP easier. How many hon. Members have come to the Chamber to demand statements or ask questions and not been called? How many have prepared speeches that have gone undelivered? With fewer colleagues, individual Members would be more satisfied and much more effective. Commensurate efforts would have to be made to ensure that secretarial allowances and Members' salaries were increased because of the extra work.

20 Jan 1998 : Column 819

The overall savings to the House would be about £100,000 per MP, if we consider salary, secretarial allowance and the allowance for living away from the constituency, leading to a total saving of some £23 million. The big saving would be that 200 MPs' offices would no longer be necessary. The strain on the Palace's infrastructure would be reduced. That would lead to much more efficient operation. If we add the reduction in the number of questions that flow through the Table Office to Government Departments, further tens of millions of pounds would be saved.

With changing circumstances, we do not need as many MPs as we have now. There should be about 200 fewer. The Bill would enable the House of Commons to operate much more effectively. I have much pleasure in introducing the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Richard Page, Mrs. Cheryl Gillan, Mr. Nigel Evans, Mr. Peter Atkinson, Mr. Quentin Davies and Mr. Richard Shepherd.

Parliamentary Boundary Commissions (Amendment)

Mr. Richard Page accordingly presented a Bill to amend the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 6 February, and to be printed [Bill 111].


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 82 (Business Committee),

Question agreed to.


Following is the report of the Business Committee [19th January]:

20 Jan 1998 : Column 820

    That the seven days allotted under the Order [15th January] to proceedings in Committee shall be allotted in the manner shown in the following Table and each part of the proceedings shall, if not previously brought to a conclusion, be brought to a conclusion (in accordance with the Order) at the time specified in relation to that part of the proceedings in the third column of the Table.


    Allotted dayProceedingsTime for conclusion of proceedings
    First day Clauses 1 and 2, Schedule 1 and Clauses 3 to 20--
    Second dayClauses 1 and 2, Schedule 1 and Clauses 3 to 20, so far as not disposed of Clauses 21 and 22, Schedule 2, Clauses 23 to 29, Schedule 3 and Clauses 30 to 44 7.00 p.m. --
    Third day Clauses 21 and 22, Schedule 2, Clauses 23 to 29, Schedule 3 and Clauses 30 to 44, so far as not disposed of 10.00 p.m.
    Fourth dayClauses 45 to 73, Schedule 4 and Clauses 74 to 7910.00 p.m.
    Fifth day Clauses 80 to 104 and Schedule 5 Clauses 105 to 108, Schedule 6, Clauses 109 and 110, Schedule 7, Clauses 111 to 117 and Schedule 87.00 p.m. 10.00 p.m.
    Sixth day Clauses 118 and 119, Schedule 9, Clause 120, Schedule 10, Clause 121, Schedule 11, Clauses 122 to 132, Schedule 12, Clauses 133 to 136, Schedule 13 and Clauses 137 to 14010.00 p.m.
    Seventh dayRemaining proceedings10.00 p.m.

20 Jan 1998 : Column 821

Orders of the Day

Government of Wales Bill

[[1st Allotted Day]

Considered in Committee.

[Sir Alan Haselhurst in the Chair]

Clause 1

The Assembly

3.41 pm

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon): I beg to move amendment No. 52,in page 1, line 8, leave out 'an' and insert 'a legislative'.

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