Previous SectionIndexHome Page


Mr. Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order for the Chair.

Mr. Forth: Indeed. I hope that the House will not accept the arrogance shown by that point, which assumes that a matter which is properly debatable can be swept to one side and taken as read and that we can proceed with business. Surely the point is that the motion is properly debatable in the House. I wish to initiate a short debate on it so that the Government can elaborate on the points that I have sought to raise. I hope that at least I will have succeeded in that.

11.41 pm

Mr. St. Aubyn: I wish to elaborate on the point on which my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) asked me to comment.

I understand that, as the Bill started in another place, if the amendments that we are asking Members of another place to consider are rejected by them and they are

1 Jul 1998 : Column 489

minded to refuse the will of this House, it could fail entirely in the current Session. It is particularly important that the constitution and credibility of the Committee is beyond reproach. If it is not, and if in another place many independent minds address themselves to the points that have been raised, the will of the House, as expressed tonight, will fail. Therefore, the points that my right hon. Friend raised are not delaying tactics; they go to the heart of the matter--whether or not the House is serious about the arguments put forward this evening; whether it is serious about trying to influence another place; and whether it seriously cares whether the Bill, which started in another place, is completed this Session.

You will advise me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I believe that we should consider whether it is material that the Bill should be completed this Session.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: That is not what we are debating now.

Mr. St. Aubyn: I am grateful for your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

My right hon. Friend has made the important point that we do not have an impartial Chairman and, given the independence of mind of those in another place, that will not help the passage of the Bill.

11.44 pm

Mr. Wilson: The right hon. Member for Bromleyand Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) asked why the Reasons Committee was being set up. The House has twice voted overwhelmingly to reverse Lords amendments and send business back to the Lords. As he may have gleaned during his years in the House, that is done by referring the issue to the Reasons Committee. It is the norm that the Minister who has spoken in the debate chairs the Committee. The issue is as simple as that. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman suffers from any particular problems of comprehension. His behaviour is entirely up to him, but I suggest that the charade that he has initiated is not in anyone's interests and that we should now get on with the business of the House and appoint the Reasons Committee.

11.46 pm

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne) rose--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: The Question is--

Mr. Wilshire: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was trying to catch your eye--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: We have moved on from that.

Mr. Forth: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My reading of the Order Paper suggests that the matter can be debated until any hour. Although the Minister has spoken early in the debate, it should be quite proper for

1 Jul 1998 : Column 490

other hon. Members to seek to catch your eye. There is no time limit on the debate. The fact that the Minister has spoken surely cannot bring the debate to an end.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I call Mr. David Wilshire.

Mr. Wilshire: Are your calling me on a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, or are you calling me to speak?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I am calling the hon. Member to speak.

Mr. Wilshire: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am most grateful to you for giving me the opportunity to speak.

Labour Members should not believe that we are not prepared to have a constructive debate on an important matter. We have had a contribution from the Minister, but I was not clear whether he was intervening on my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. St. Aubyn) or whether my hon. Friend had finished and the Minister was making his speech. Will the Minister answer the legitimate questions that my right hon. and hon. Friends have asked and the questions that I would like to ask? I shall be happy to give way if someone would like to give me an assurance that we shall hear a constructive contribution from the Government in response to the points that have been made.

The Minister did not tell us why the particular names have been proposed. I understand why my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Green) is to be on the Committee, if the House approves it, but I do not understand the reasons for the selection of the other names. I should be most grateful if someone could explain why each of those hon. Members has been selected and why they are considered the experts who can draw up a list of reasons on behalf of the whole House that we can send to the other place.

I am also interested to know not only why those hon. Members have been chosen, but why others have been rejected. Many Labour Members have great knowledge of the issues that have been debated. It is important for us to be told whether those who have been chosen represent a balanced ticket.

Mr. St. Aubyn: Does my hon. Friend agree that the Minister's cursory remarks will undermine the credibility of the Committee in the eyes of another place? We are seeking a more detailed response and analysis--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman has already made that point more than once.

Mr. Wilshire: My hon. Friend the Member for Guildford is absolutely right. It is important that, when justification is given for the names that the Government have put forward, it is explained whether the names constitute a balanced ticket. We have heard members of all parties express substantial reservations about the arguments advanced by the Government Front-Bench team. It is important that somebody like the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) should be on that Committee, because he seems to have a much stronger grasp of the problems than the Minister or, as far as I can see, any of the other Labour Members proposed.

Mrs. Browning: My hon. Friend will be aware that I sat in the Chamber throughout the previous debates,

1 Jul 1998 : Column 491

although I did not speak. Does he believe that the hon. Members on the Committee should at the very minimum have heard tonight's debate?

Mr. Wilshire: I am sure that my hon. Friend is absolutely right. Perhaps I should add that to the list of questions, so that we may make absolutely certain that everyone who serves on the Committee has sat through the entire debate and knows about all the issues that must be addressed. I should be very grateful for an explanation about the names.

There is one other issue with which we need to deal: the Chairman. It has been asked whether the Minister for Education and Industry is the right person for the job, because he is tired. Is he tired? The poor hon. Gentlemen has been dragged all the way back from Inverness. He was late getting here, he has been under a great deal of stress, and I worry for his health. I worry that he might be clapped out and, therefore, somebody else should be chosen.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the procedures that we are adopting are routine for such an issue. The reasons that he is giving for not agreeing with the motion are, as far as I can see, rather thin.

Mr. Wilshire: I understand exactly your point, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Although the matter can very easily be seen as routine, it is far from it when the person proposed to chair the Committee has been dragged back from Inverness. I suspect that this might even be a unique occasion. The matter needs some consideration. I hope that someone on the Government Front Bench will be able to assure us that a Minister who has had a tiring day and has worked hard can, just before midnight, chair a Committee that must do a responsible job. I look forward to the answer to that.

We must also be told what issues the Committee intends to address. All sorts of issues have been raised tonight. We know what the two motions and the decisions were; the Committee has to draw up reasons. We need to be reassured that the Committee members have a grasp of every issue that was raised tonight--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. That is not what we are talking about. The hon. Member is straying very wide of the point, and I should be grateful if he returned to the precise motion before the House.

Mr. Wilshire: I entirely understand your point, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I therefore ask just one other question? We need to be told what will happen if the Committee gets it wrong. If its members have not grasped the issues, and they draw up a list of reasons--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. That does not concern the motion before the House, to which the hon. Member must return precisely.

Mr. Wilshire: I thought--


Next Section

IndexHome Page