Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I said that I hoped that this was the hon. Gentleman's last point.

Mr. Tyler: It is. The precedents that the Leader of the House cited for moving immediately from one stage of a Bill to another were not similar to the measure that has just been discussed. Having to move so fast did not help hon. Members.

Mrs. Beckett: May I first say to the hon. Gentleman that all hon. Members share the support that he voiced for a sensible programme motion. However, it is not always fashionable for Conservative Members to admit that.

The hon. Gentleman suggests that we should identify measures that will cause problems and may consequently need more time, and agree about the way in which to handle them. We were in that position when we began to debate the Disqualifications Bill. The shadow Home Secretary made that clear. She said that the Opposition did not oppose the Bill, and that they would give it a fair wind. There was an opportunity to return to the debate on the Bill after 10 o'clock on Monday, but it was not taken. I understand that, because the Opposition had a reasonable time and were right to believe that the issues had been aired. They did not vote against the Bill on Second Reading. Under those circumstances, when agreement appears to have been reached, but the agreement is subsequently torn up, difficulties arise. I personally take the Leader of the Opposition's extraordinary and ill-judged letter to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister as support for programme motions.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley): Last week, the right hon. Lady made a statement to which I responded when business was changed following consideration of the Representation of the People Bill. There was anxiety among Conservative Members and some Labour Members because two Second Readings took place after consideration of the measure. Again, anxiety has been caused because of the treatment of the Disqualifications Bill. The right hon. Lady should appreciate the concern among hon. Members of all parties. Will she assure us that she will talk to business managers to ensure that proposed legislation will be given due regard, that hon. Members will be able to scrutinise and debate it properly, and that it will not be rushed through the House in the same manner as the Disqualifications Bill?

Mrs. Beckett: I simply say to the hon. Gentleman that, on more mature reflection, he might be sorry that he made that point. He is entirely correct that there is a strong parallel between what happened last week and what happened this week. Last week there was an acceptance and an understanding on both sides of the House, including between Front-Bench Members, that there was little of contention to air, but that there were issues that should be aired and that they would be dealt with in proper time. Then what happened was that a group of Conservative Members used the opportunity to try to talk out the Fur Farming (Prohibition) Bill. He knows that that is what happened, because he was here, and we know that that is what happened. Those are precisely the tactics that have often been adopted--I accept, on different grounds--by the same usual suspects.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): The Leader of the House has a duty to represent the interests of the

25 Jan 2000 : Column 557

House and all Back Benchers. Does she accept that Ministers have a duty to reply to matters raised during debate sensitively, positively and rationally? Does she regret that that has not been the case, and that she and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Northern Ireland have intentionally misled the House as to the content--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman should know better. When I get to my feet, he should sit down. Did I hear him say that the right hon. Lady misled the House?

Mr. Winterton: Yes, I most certainly did. The letter to which the right hon. Lady and the Minister referred--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman must withdraw that statement. He knows the rules of the House, perhaps better than I. I want him to get to his feet only if he will withdraw that statement. No one has misled the House.

Mr. Winterton: The House has been misled because the implication--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Will the hon. Gentleman withdraw that statement? I advise him to do so. I implore him to withdraw that statement.

Mr. Winterton: If the right hon. Lady--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. There are no ifs and buts. The hon. Gentleman must withdraw that statement.

Mr. Winterton: I will apologise to the House and to the right hon. Lady, but she has misused--

Several hon. Members rose--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman has apologised and has resumed his seat. I shall call only one more hon. Member.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West): The right hon. Lady will have witnessed the disciplined and successful tactics of her own Back Benchers on Monday evening during the discussion of private business. She will not be surprised that the Opposition have learned from those tactics over the past 24 hours. Will she confirm that she could have used Labour's majority at any stage during the proceedings up till Two o'clock this afternoon to bring the Committee to a close, but she did not do so because she did not want to expose the Prime Minister to questioning from my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) or from the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan)?

Mrs. Beckett: Opposition Members have spent a good deal of time talking about the importance of what they regard as the constitutional implications of the legislation, and then have called on me to curtail it, guillotine it, propose closure of the debate or not move the Ten o'clock motion. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I have taken most careful heed of all those injunctions, and I shall bear them very much in mind.

Mr. Campbell-Savours: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. What we have just seen was

25 Jan 2000 : Column 558

predicted three months ago--you, from the Chair, in conflict with someone who may refer to himself as an Assistant Speaker in the other Chamber. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) knows the rules, as we do. If we cannot get an Assistant Speaker from the other Chamber unconditionally to withdraw an allegation of deliberately misleading the House, what hope is there for the proper policing of our proceedings under the new arrangements?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I received an apology and when an apology is given, as far as the Chair is concerned, the matter is finished.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East) rose--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Does the hon. Gentleman have a point of order?

Sir Teddy Taylor: It is a very important question that I want to ask the Leader of the House.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can wait until the Business statement tomorrow.





(1) the draft Census Order 2000, which was laid before this House on 10th January, be referred to a Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation; and
(2) if, after the Committee has reported the Instrument to the House, the Motion in the name of Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer relating to the draft Order is made, the Speaker shall put forthwith--
(i) the Questions on any amendments to the Motion which she has selected and which may then be moved, and
(ii) the Question on the Motion, or on the Motion as amended;
and such Questions may be decided at any hour, though opposed.--[Mr. Kevin Hughes.]


Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.--[Mr. Kevin Hughes.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin): The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) has withdrawn.

Question put and agreed to.

 IndexHome Page