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3. Proceedings on Third Reading shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion six hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Bill on the second allotted day.

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Questions to be put

4.--(1) For the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with the preceding provisions the 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;
(d) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded;
(2) On a Motion for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.
(3) If two or more Questions would otherwise fall to be put under sub-paragraph (1)(c) on amendments moved or Motions made by a Minister of the Crown, the Speaker shall instead put a single Question in relation to those amendments or Motions.


5. Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply to proceedings to which this Order applies.

6.--(1) If at this day's sitting--
(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 7.00 p.m.; and
(b) proceedings on the Motion for this Order have begun before that time, the Motion for the Adjournment shall stand over until the adjournment of proceedings on the Bill at this day's sitting.
(2) If on the second allotted day a Motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 24 stands over to 7.00 p.m. or from an earlier day, the Motion shall stand over until the conclusion of proceedings on the Bill.
7. No Motion shall be made, except by a Minister of the Crown, to alter the order in which any proceedings on the Bill are taken or to recommit the Bill (whether as a whole or otherwise); and the Speaker shall put forthwith any Question necessary to dispose of any such Motion made by a Minister of the Crown, including the Question on any amendment.
8. No dilatory Motion shall be made in relation to the Bill except by a Minister of the Crown; and the Question on any such Motion made by a Minister of the Crown shall be put forthwith.
9. Proceedings to which this Order applies shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to sittings of the House.
10. Standing Order No. 82 (Business Committee) shall not apply to the Bill.

Supplemental orders

11. If any Motion is made by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order, proceedings on the Motion shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after they have commenced; and Standing Order No. 15(1) shall apply to those proceedings.

12. If the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended--
(a) at this day's sitting, before the adjournment of proceedings on the Bill; or
(b) on the second allotted day, before the conclusion of proceedings on the Bill, no notice shall be required of a Motion made at the next sitting by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.

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13. In this Order--

"allotted day" means this day and any day on which the Bill is put down on the main business as first Government Order of the Day; and
"the Bill" means the Transport Bill.--[Mr. Robert Ainsworth.]

4.28 pm

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): All guillotines are an affront. This is as bad as most, and worse than many.

Guillotines, surely, represent a failure of the parliamentary process. They imply that the House has neither the disposition nor the time to deal properly with the matters at hand. They also render impossible the main function of the House, which is to scrutinise legislation properly; and they deny Back Benchers, in particular, an opportunity to give their attention to it. I suspect that they also imply the existence of an excess of legislation. The fact that a guillotine needs to be introduced at any stage of the parliamentary Session suggests that the Government are putting too much legislation before the House, and the House feels that it is not being given proper time to deal with it.

That applies particularly in the case of this Bill, which by any measure is large and important. One would have thought that the House would want to give a proper amount of time to its consideration--especially at this stage, when we are faced with a substantial number of amendments. I look in particular at the first grouping that is proposed in the timetable motion. Not only are there at least 40 distinct items to be considered in the four hours to be allocated, but they range across very different subjects.

Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills): Four hours are not allocated to that group of amendments. Under Standing Orders, the first three hours are allocated to this debate. If we had three hours on the debate and a Division at the end, the Government would intend to dispose of all those matters within about 40 minutes.

Mr. Forth: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his correction. I was assuming that, given my customary brevity, the House would not be detained for any great length of time. Depending on what he wishes to say, if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that may or may not be the case. My hon. Friend is right. In certain circumstances, there could be as little as three hours or less to consider the 40 items that I have mentioned; the four hours are a maximum.

The items range across different issues such as loans and grants, the disposition of shares, directorships, the parliamentary process itself and the key issue of the nature of the company that is to be set up. All those items are supposed to be properly scrutinised and considered in the House of Commons in a period that could be as little as under an hour and that, at most, will be something short of four hours.

That is bad enough. It is proposed to give the next grouping an hour and a half. I count 90 Government amendments and 20 other amendments. How is the House is supposed to consider them properly? That is less than one minute per item, if one wants to look at it in that way. An hour is allocated to a later grouping: it is proposed to deal with 36 Government amendments and seven others in that time.

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I do not want to go into any more detail. The matter explains itself. It is a pathetic admission of failure by the House as a whole, by hon. Members and by those who propose the timetable motion because it suggests that the House of Commons has lost interest in its principal function: the proper scrutiny of legislation. The motion arrogantly implies that we Back Benchers should be prepared to allow the matter to slip through--this enormous Bill, this enormous number of amendments--in one brief sitting today of somewhat short of eight hours and in a sitting tomorrow of six hours. It is pathetic.

That the House of Commons should have come to this makes me feel very sad. I would like to think that it will never happen again, but I am not sure, given the Government's propensity not only to bring excessive numbers of Bills before the House--and to make them excessively long--but to be forced by their incompetence to introduce so many amendments to their Bills. All those factors add up to the fact that we can see what the Government's attitude to the House of Commons and its traditional function is. I deprecate the whole thing.

4.33 pm

Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills): My regret goes a little further than that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth). On the Order Paper, the motion stands in the name of Front-Bench representatives of the principal parties. They have clearly sat down and considered what is the best way of debating the Bill; I take that on trust because no speech has yet been made to justify why the mechanism is necessary.

Why are we cutting off the rights of Members of Parliament--the representatives of constituencies--to speak? Why are we reducing on the most important issues the ability of any one of us--it is what we were elected for--to speak on behalf of our constituents and to express anxieties or balanced arguments as to why the measures or clauses are appropriate or inappropriate?

Such motions used to be a matter of great solemnity for the House. They were barely used. The Government have now introduced, I think, 36 principal guillotine motions; in fact, there have been nearly 50 guillotine motions. I know that that might even shock the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions. I know how vigorous he was in opposing the decisions of past Conservative Administrations to impose guillotines.

The Secretary of State may think, now that he is in office, that guillotines are right, but when he was not in office, he clearly thought that such motions were wrong. Nevertheless, that seems to be the thought behind the guillotine.

In the House's Standing Orders, three hours are set aside for debate of a guillotine motion. However, even that may be truncated. It is the House's right, by the force of the majority, to ensure that many hon. Members who may wish to speak to these important matters cannot do so. That would be an extraordinary rejection of the very function that we are called here to perform, and of even our name--Parliament.

I take exception to this guillotine motion, which will limit what is perhaps the most important political debate. Perhaps the debate's importance is the reason why the Opposition have been so keen to conduct it in this manner,

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raising it to such a prominent position and ensuring that they maximise the Government's discomfiture on it. It is a shortsighted way of considering the matter.

No one doubts that the principle involved in the sell-off of air traffic control is very important. The issue raises in all parties anxieties about the national interest and about who can best guarantee the security of air traffic control. Some people say that the Government can do that best, whereas others say that it can be done best by someone else. Some people ask whether there should be a golden share to ensure that air traffic control cannot be bought by foreign commercial interests and put at ransom.

Every hon. Member knows that all those issues are important. Hon. Members on both sides of the House--but especially Labour Members--are deeply anxious about them. I do not take lightly Labour Members' feelings in voting against the principle proposed by the Government. Many of them will wish to speak in the debate to explain to their constituents why they take a different view, but the motion will deny them the opportunity of doing so.

I have not troubled even to count the number of amendments in the first group, which--if the guillotine debate were to last three hours, plus a Division--we could have only 40 minutes to debate. If we had only 40 minutes, the Secretary of State would have barely enough time to mangle his first sentence. If the process were to continue, the Government would be denying even themselves the ability to justify their case to the House. How can that be right? It is an important argument.

The courtesies have become so trivialised that the Government feel that it is no longer necessary even to explain why a guillotine should be introduced. Even Opposition Front Benchers do not think that it is necessary to justify them.

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