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Children's Nurseries (Safety)

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle accordingly presented a Bill to amend the Children Act 1989 to improve the registration and inspection procedures in nurseries by introducing stricter safety guidelines for registration and more frequent and unannounced inspections: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 3 July, and to be printed [Bill 177].

22 Apr 1998 : Column 833

Northern Ireland (Elections) Bill (Programme)

4.13 pm

The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mrs. Ann Taylor): I beg to move,


That the following provisions shall apply to proceedings on the Northern Ireland (Elections) Bill:

Timing of proceedings


1.--(1) Proceedings on the bill shall be completed at the sitting on Wednesday 22nd April.


(2) Proceedings on Second Reading shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion four hours after their commencement of proceedings on this motion.
(3) Remaining proceedings shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion seven hours after the commencement of proceedings on this motion.
(4) Standing Order 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply to proceedings on the Bill at the sitting on 22nd April.
2.--(1) When the Bill has been read a second time--
(a) it shall, notwithstanding Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of bills), stand committed to a Committee of the whole House without any Question being put,
(b) proceedings on the Bill shall stand postponed while the Question is put, in accordance with Standing Order No. 52(1) (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with bills), on any financial resolution relating to the Bill; and
(c) on the conclusion of proceedings on any financial resolution relating to the Bill, proceedings on the Bill shall be resumed and the Speaker shall leave the chair whether or not notice of an instruction has been given.
(2) On the conclusion of proceedings in Committee the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question; and if he reports the Bill with Amendments, the House shall proceed to consider the Bill as amended without any Question being put.

Questions to be put


3.--(1) For the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph 1 the Chairman or Speaker shall forthwith put the following Questions (but no others)--


(a) any Question already proposed from the Chair;
(b) any Question necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed;
(c) the Question on any amendment moved or Motion made by a Minister of the Crown; and
(d) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded;
and on a Motion for a new Clause or Schedule, the Chairman or Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.
(2) If two or more Questions would fall to be put by the Chairman under sub-paragraph (1)(d) in relation to successive provisions of the Bill, the Chairman shall instead put a single Question in relation to those provisions.

Miscellaneous


4. If at the sitting on 22nd April--


(a) a Motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 24 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) stands over to Seven o'clock, and
(b) proceedings on the Bill have begun before that time,
the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings in accordance with paragraph 1 shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion.

22 Apr 1998 : Column 834


5.--(1) No Motion shall be made to alter the order in which any proceedings on the Bill are taken.
(2) No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, proceedings on the Bill shall be made except by a Minister of the Crown; and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.
(3) No debate shall be permitted on any Motion to recommit the Bill (whether as a whole or otherwise), and the Speaker shall put forthwith any Question necessary to dispose of the Motion, including the Question on any amendment.
6. Standing Order No. 82 (Business Committee) shall not apply to this Order.
7.--(1) The proceedings on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after they have been commenced; and Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply to those proceedings.
(2) If at the sitting on 22nd April the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before the time at which any proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion under paragraph 1, no notice shall be required of a Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House have acknowledged that, although the agreement that was reached on Good Friday is not an end in itself, it is extremely important, because it represents the best opportunity for a generation to achieve a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. That is why this specific motion is before us.

When the agreement was reached, it was welcomed by hon. Members on both sides of the House. It is extremely important that we retain an all-party approach to this issue, which is one reason why I am so pleased that the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard) and the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler), who represents the Liberal Democrats, have agreed to sign the programme motion.

At the time of the agreement, the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), the Conservative party leader, said:


The former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), said:


    "We have got an agreement which stretched far wider across Northern Ireland than we could possibly have imagined".

The right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble), who cannot be here because of other commitments, said:


    "We have laid the foundation for a healthy, vibrant democracy to replace the stagnation of the last three decades."

That was why, following the widely welcomed statement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on Monday, I announced a change of business to take this Bill through all its stages today.

On Monday, the Secretary of State outlined the basis of the agreement, and indicated the various parts of it that would require action by the House. Today, the House has its first opportunity to play its part in facilitating the agreement. Later tonight, the House will be asked to approve orders for the provision of the referendum and for the winding up of the forum, but first we ask the House to take all stages of the Bill today. I know that that is unusual, but, as hon. Members will know, it is not unprecedented.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy), will deal in detail with the merits of the Bill when he opens the

22 Apr 1998 : Column 835

Second Reading debate shortly. The longer we spend debating the programme motion, the less time we will have to consider the Bill in detail. I want to say simply why it is appropriate that the House should give the Bill priority and treat it in this unusual way, taking all stages in one day.

As I say, that is not unprecedented. The House can respond to emergencies. Only two weeks ago, we considered the Criminal Procedure (Intermediate Diets) (Scotland) Bill, but, of course, this is a much bigger Bill and I cannot rely just on precedent. The House has a responsibility to act swiftly.

On Monday, the right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) said:


The House clearly cannot legislate for hearts and minds, but it does have a responsibility to do everything it can and to move as quickly as possible to facilitate the delivery of the agreement, and the opportunities in it for the people who are most affected to express their views not only in the referendum but in the elections.

The timetable for the referendum and elections is tight, but that timetable was decided by the agreement on Good Friday, and we in the House must do all we can to maintain the momentum. That is the will of the House, and I hope that we can proceed by general agreement.

I acknowledge that there is some concern on the part of some Members; I know that the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) has already expressed his. Of course he is right to say that we do not usually take Bills in this way, but these are not usual circumstances, and, as the Secretary of State said on Monday, this is a unique agreement, born of a unique set of negotiations and circumstances. The House has a responsibility to act quickly, and I am grateful to the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk and others who have given their support for dealing with the matter in this way.

4.19 pm

Mrs. Gillian Shephard (South-West Norfolk): On Monday, I was happy to express the Opposition's total support for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the statement she made. Later that day, I was also happy to give our support to this unusual way of dealing with unprecedented need. I reaffirm that support.


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