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Mr. Speaker: We have business before us today, but these matters can be debated. The right hon. Gentleman will know that a programme motion is amendable. I am in the hands of the House on these matters. It is not for me to decide the programme motion; it is a matter for the House.

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Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I served on the Committee to which the hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale) referred. May I seek clarification on two matters that follow the hon. Gentleman's report to you and to the House? First, am I right in thinking that any motion to deal with Members who came into the Committee and disrupted its proceedings will take precedence over all other business?

Secondly, will you clarify whether it is open to any Member to propose how we now proceed to deal with the Criminal Justice and Police Bill? Like many Members, I share the concern that a very severe guillotine was imposed on the Bill and, like many Members, I would like us to reconsider the remaining timetable for the Bill's progress. I would be grateful, Mr. Speaker, if you could tell us whether it is open to me and my colleagues and to Members of any party to table a motion on Monday, so that we can return to an orderly process for completing the Bill's scrutiny within a period that allows all matters to be given proper consideration.

Several hon. Members rose--

Mr. Speaker: Order. I shall answer the point of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). Any hon. Member or party spokesman can table a motion; that is perfectly in order. The Government have control over the priorities of the House, and Government business will take priority, but any hon. Member can table a motion.

Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Could you advise me, as a Back Bencher, how I can table a motion to draw to the attention of the House the appalling conduct of the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) in frustrating the will of the House as expressed in the resolutions passed by it and in setting, as the shadow Home Secretary, such an appalling example to the youth of this country when we are debating steps to deal with such behaviour?

Mr. Speaker: That is not a matter for me.

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Programming Sub-Committee of the Committee convened on a number of occasions to discuss whether it would be possible to have an extra day of Committee consideration. On each occasion, that suggestion was voted down by the Government. On another occasion, the Opposition sought to sit to all night to complete the Bill's consideration, and that suggestion was voted down. Is it possible to reconvene the Programming Sub-Committee of Standing Committee F, so that we can discuss the matter again? It would help the House if the Government were prepared to be not so arrogant and would give us the time to consider important matters to do with police training, police organisation, the funding of the National Criminal Intelligence Service and--

Mr. Speaker: Order.

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Mr. Heald rose--

Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman must sit down. The answer to his question is that it depends on the type of motion that is tabled and the type of motion that is agreed.

Mr. Charles Clarke: Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is the House aware that, on five separate occasions, we extended the times of the Committee's sittings to meet the points made by the Opposition?

Mr. Speaker: That is not a matter for the Chair.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am grateful to you for the clarification that you have provided about the facility that exists for any Member to table a motion of, in effect, censure. Given that part of the argument revolves around the adequacy or inadequacy of time for the consideration of the relevant matters, will you advise the House on whether any motion of censure would be automatically time limited or potentially subject to a guillotine?

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman may have a view on what is part of the argument, but the argument as far as I am concerned is that a Chairman has reported to me that a Committee has been disrupted. The House will be entitled to debate that matter if the House so desires.

Mr. Forth: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker: I am getting a bit weary of points of order on this matter. I want to get on to the business of the House.

Mr. Forth: This is a genuine new point, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of State has helpfully told the House that he will table a motion in the name of the Government to try to resolve this matter. I did not catch whether he said "on Monday" or "for Monday". You will know, Mr. Speaker, that there is an important distinction. If the Government were to table a motion at the very end of business today, it would give rise to the question of how far hon. Members would be able to consider it and to table amendments to it. If the Government tabled such a motion, would manuscript amendments therefore be sympathetically considered on Monday? The Government's indecent haste in trying to dig themselves out of this mess has created a difficulty and that may not allow Members the proper occasion, which you would want to protect, to consider and to seek to amend the motion. Your guidance would be very helpful on this matter.

Mr. Speaker: The matters that the right hon. Gentleman raises are hypothetical; I cannot answer hypothetical questions.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I thank you for your ruling? What you have said is of great and permanent importance, namely, that the progress of business is a matter for the Government and any comments on the conduct of Members are a matter for the House. You have quite properly and importantly reminded the House that you are

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not in the Chair to discipline Members as an individual Speaker or to progress Government business. If that point has been established by the exchanges today, I think that we have made real progress. I hope that your ruling is duly recorded in "Erskine May".

Mr. Speaker: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that. Perhaps on that note we can move on to today's business.

Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Speaker: I ceased to be a Deputy Speaker a long time ago.

Mr. Luff: I apologise, Mr. Speaker. We need some clarification. I believe that the Minister indicated that he would be tabling a motion today for debate on Monday.

Mr. Clarke indicated dissent.

Mr. Luff: So he is not saying that. I think that it would be helpful if you, Mr. Speaker, could encourage the Minister to say exactly what the Government intend to do.

Mr. Speaker: Quite frankly, in a sense I am not interested in what the Government want to do. It is up to them to decide how they act. We do not need clarification at this stage. All I need to do is to ask the Clerk to read the Orders of the Day.

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Orders of the Day

High Hedges Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

9.50 am

Mr. John M. Taylor (Solihull): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

In 18 years in the House, this is the first time that I have come high enough in the ballot to have the privilege of promoting a private Member's Bill. I believe that, in this Bill, I have the responsibility of gaining some redress for those people whose lives have been made miserable by the excessive hedges of their immediate neighbours.

I reminded myself the other day that the first words attributed to God in the Bible are "Let there be light." There was light and God saw that it was good.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): But his neighbours did not.

Mr. Taylor: His neighbours at that time were unidentified.

Soon after, he created man and woman, and some say that it has been downhill ever since.

In one Roman poet's version of our negative impact on creation, it was a sorry sign of the times when:

and, one might say, hedges. We are comfortable with living on ground that has been portioned into patches by surveyors. We like to mark the boundaries of our ground with fences, if not ditches. There is nothing wrong with that. An Englishman's home is his castle, as the adage goes. The problem lies with some of the fences that we choose and how we manage them.

I can find no specific biblical reference to link the creation of fast-growing conifer hedges with an act of God. However, we can be sure that such a thing has been created because a curious darkness has fallen across some of our suburbs. God saw the light and saw that it was good, but now countless householders peer into their gardens and cannot see much light at all, let alone appreciate just how good it is.

The Bill offers a lifeline to thousands of people in England and Wales whose quality of life has been seriously hit simply because they cannot persuade their neighbours to keep their garden hedges to a reasonable height. Hon. Members will be all too familiar with the problem that I am trying to address today. We have read about it in the press, we have seen it on television programmes--one of which was called "Neighbours at War"--and we have received countless letters and sometimes facsimile communications from our constituents. I have the permission of Mr. and Mrs. Evans of Yoxhall road, Shirley and of Mr. M. J. Hawker of 44 Whitefields road, Solihull to mention their names in this context. I have also received representations from many others.

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