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7.30 am

However, the hon. Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) was more concerned that there would be two classes of person in the House. One group would be eligible for the office of Speaker or Deputy Speaker, but the other would not. There would be two different classes in any case, as some individuals would also be members of another legislature. They would have duties, concerns and responsibilities in that regard which would inhibit their capacity fully to perform their duties in this place.

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That would give rise to a grave difficulty. Indeed, that difficulty springs from the intention of the Bill to allow outsiders to become Members of the House while they are members of another legislature. That is a basic flaw in the Bill and we should acknowledge it.

The Bill has great flaws. The Minister has not satisfied hon. Members--he certainly has not satisfied me--by what he said earlier. He has not adequately explained why it is possible for the Government to accept amendments Nos. 7 and 9, but not to accept other amendments, even though they are similar. He has given an extremely inadequate explanation as to why he refuses to accept amendments Nos. 14 and 18.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for tabling the new clause, because it demonstrates the absurdity of the Bill. Was that why he tabled it?

Mr. Ross: I thought that the Bill was absurd, that it fell far short in the expertise of its drafting, and that it fell below the philosophical standards to which we are accustomed. However, I realise that the Government have a huge majority. In Northern Ireland, we have the word "thrawn"; it means being awkward for the sake of it. That describes the attitude of the Government. They have a huge majority; their followers expect to be able to sweep every measure through the House, so the Government have become careless.

The Bill is careless and badly drafted; it fulfils no useful purpose. As it is wrong and the Government are intent on putting it through, we should try to improve it.

Mr. Sayeed: The hon. Member has been a Member of the House for many a year. Does he believe that the Bill would have been presented in this form, if, for example, Walter Harrison or Michael Cocks had still been Whips?

The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael Lord): Order. The hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross) should not answer that question; he should return to the amendment.

Mr. Ross: Fond as my memories are of the two gentlemen in question when they were Members of the House, I will not follow up the question put by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Sayeed), other than to point out that if Mr. Harrison were still a Whip, there would not be so few Labour Members in the Committee--they would all be here. They would all have to answer to him--heaven help them if they were missing.

I am sure, Mr. Lord, that you recall Mr. Harrison as well as I do. He was a most remarkable man. I found him most congenial, but of course he was not my Whip. I got on well with him. He was a man of high moral and religious standards, having--

The Second Deputy Chairman: The hon. Gentleman is now doing precisely what I asked him not to do. Will he please address the amendment?

Mr. Ross: Of course, Mr. Lord. However, I hate to leave the subject of Mr. Harrison because I had such high

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regard for him. We all like to remember our departed friends--departed only from the House, not in any other sense.

The Bill is a bad one. We have endeavoured to improve it with these amendments and others. The Government know that all the amendments are perfectly acceptable, but they cannot admit that they got it so wrong. It is only because they are forced by logic--a rare matter in government--to admit that the principle behind two of the amendments would improve the Bill that they are prepared to accept them. They therefore want to accept them, but they are not prepared to accept the same principle in regard to the other amendments. We heard the very weak argument that the Minister made against these sensible amendments.

I believe that the Minister should reconsider and I should be grateful, Mr. Lord, if you would advise me, because I need some advice. As you say, I have been in the House for a long time. However, as I have not been a member of one of the main parties, it has not been my responsibility to ask questions of the Chair and to discover how these different amendments will be dealt with. As has been said, the Government accept the principle underlying amendments Nos. 7 and 9. Will they accept those two amendments as they stand? If they accept those, does it mean that we must have a series of Divisions on them? What is the position regarding amendments Nos. 21, 14 and 18 and new clause 3? May we have separate Divisions on those amendments? I should be grateful if you would let me know how it is proposed to deal with this matter.

The Second Deputy Chairman: As the hon. Gentleman has said, he has been a Member of the House for a long time. He therefore knows exactly how we deal with these amendments. He should address his amendments, not the procedures of the House.

Mr. Ross: The problem is, Mr. Lord, that the procedures of the House will determine whether we can have a separate Division on each amendment, so I am just serving notice that we want separate Divisions on them.

There is also the question of amendments Nos. 7 and 9. I want to know whether the Minister is prepared to accept the wording of those two amendments, or whether he will go away, think about them and come back with a different wording at a later stage--either by tabling a manuscript amendment on Report, or by taking care of the matter in another place.

There is much more that one could say on these matters, but I think that, in these few minutes, I have addressed the thing as best I can. I would leave it there, and I should be grateful if the Minister replied.

Mr. George Howarth: I have listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman, as I always do, and he has not asked me to cover any ground that I have not covered already or that, as in the case of hybridity, has not been ruled on by the Chair. Fascinating though some of the points that the hon. Gentleman raises are, I would be in danger of tedious repetition if I discussed them and, mindful as I am of the previous strictures from the Chair, I do not intend to do so. With the assurances that I have given on amendments

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Nos. 7 and 9, which the hon. Gentleman is well aware of, I would recommend that the Committee oppose these amendments.

Mr. Gale: I am sorry, Mr. Lord; I was hoping to catch the Minister before he sat down. I should like to ask him two absolutely straight questions, to which there are yes and no answers. One: is the Speaker of the House of Commons the holder of an office under the Crown--yes or no? Two: if not, is it, under the Bill, technically possible for the Speaker of the House of Commons to be a Minister in another Parliament--yes or no? If so, we could not possibly support clause 2.

Mr. Howarth: The hon. Gentleman is well aware of the answers to his questions. He has checked the matter out. I will not be involved in any games that he might be playing. The Speaker of the House, as the hon. Gentleman well knows--I recall that he is a member of the Chairmen's Panel--is elected by the House and the House alone. When the Bill comes into force, technically speaking, the Speaker of the House could serve in another legislature and could, technically, hold office in that legislature, but I think that any Speaker who contemplated taking such action might find it difficult to gain the support of the House.

Mr. Gale: Forgive me, Mr. Lord, but I do not know of any procedure--you will correct me if I am wrong--for removing a Speaker from office during their holding of that office, and if, as we have now agreed, the Speaker is not a Minister under the Crown, the Speakership is not covered by clause 2(2). That must be nonsense, because it means that the Speaker could hold a non-partisan office and a partisan office simultaneously.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The Committee divided: Ayes 33, Noes 202.

Division No. 45
[7.40 am


Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Beggs, Roy
Bercow, John
Boswell, Tim
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Donaldson, Jeffrey
Gale, Roger
Heald, Oliver
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Hunter, Andrew
Key, Robert
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Loughton, Tim
McLoughlin, Patrick
Maginnis, Ken
Oaten, Mark
Randall, John
Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sayeed, Jonathan
Spicer, Sir Michael
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Tredinnick, David
Wardle, Charles

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Eric Forth and
Mr. William Thompson.


Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Atkins, Charlotte
Barnes, Harry
Battle, John
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Burgon, Colin
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Caplin, Ivor
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Coaker, Vernon
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Dalyell, Tam
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
Gerrard, Neil
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Grogan, John
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Hinchliffe, David
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Iddon, Dr Brian
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Kemp, Fraser
Kidney, David
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Martlew, Eric
Merron, Gillian
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morley, Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Sawford, Phil
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Tynan, Bill
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Mike Hall and
Mr. Clive Betts.

Question accordingly negatived.

25 Jan 2000 : Column 380

7.45 am

Mr. William Ross: Mr. Lord, I beg to ask leave to withdraw amendments Nos. 7, 14, 18 and 9, but to move new clause 3 separately as it deals with an entirely different matter. The new clause deals with the Speaker, you and your colleagues in this House, and you are of far more importance than any of the subjects covered by the other amendments.

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