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23 Oct 2002 : Column 345continued
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is ignoring the ruling that I have given, and I shall take an increasingly serious view of that. He must talk about the particular motion before the House and not the generality.
Normally, if a motion such as this is not before the House, every Bill that does not complete its passage through the House is quashed as a direct result of Prorogation. [Interruption.] I do not know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether the hon. Members for Tatton
Mr. Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It has just come to my notice and, I dare say, that of a few colleagues that the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Estelle Morris), has resigned. Have you had any intimation that a Minister will be coming to the House forthwith to explain why that has taken place? As a former member of the then Education and Employment Committee, I think that the House and all those involved in education are owed an explanation, in the House, as soon as possible.
Stephen Hesford: I was making the point that all Bills, other than private Bills such as this, must fall on Prorogation. The inability to carry over Bills from one Session to another involves constitutional considerations and is not governed by Standing Orders. It is, in effect, a convention of the House that a Bill is not carried over from one Session to another. I know that the convention has recently been considered by the Modernisation Committee.
Dr. Pugh: I am trying very hard to follow the hon. Gentleman's point. He is saying either that this motion is allowed by the procedures of the House, but it ought not to be, or that it is not allowed for some reason. If it were not allowed, you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would have given us a ruling by now. Is the hon. Gentleman's argument therefore that this motion is allowed, but in his view it ought not to be? If that is the case, he is
Dr. Pugh: If that is the hon. Gentleman's point, we might as well concede it and say that he is stating the obvious. This procedure is within the legitimate remit of the House. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is arguing that it ought never to be used, so he does not seem to have an argument at all.
Mr. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South): Is my hon. Friend suggesting that the Bill has implications for an area far wider than Merseyside, including Cheshire, north Wales, east Lancashire and areas beyond and that its promoters can purport to represent only Merseyside? Is he suggesting that the precedents set by the Bill will have an impact on other ports, tunnels and crossings? Is he suggesting that
Stephen Hesford: Being ever mindful of the narrow point that is under discussion, but trying to do justice to the constitutional position as I see it, I must say that some of what my hon. Friend was saying is relevant to the matter under consideration.
Mr. George Howarth: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you confirm that the procedure that we are using is perfectly proper and that the procedures undergone by the Bill so far, namely the fact that it has had a Second Reading, are all perfectly in order?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I can confirm that. We just have one matter to decide tonight: whether the Bill should be allowed to continue into another Session so that its merits can be further considered in that Session.
Mrs. Dunwoody: Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is not it true that the subsequent passage of the Bill would not preclude amendments and that it could be scrutinised at various stages if it progressed after tonight?
Stephen Hesford: I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, South was making the point that private Bills are designed to deal with narrow matters such as railway companies or a matter that affects a specific locality. My hon. Friend nods, and I believe that
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Our business tonight is not to decide the Bill's merits and implications; we are considering a procedure for carry-over. The Chair has accepted the motion for debate by the House, and it is therefore perfectly proper and in order. The hon. Member should direct his attention to it.
Stephen Hesford: I am obliged, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I want simply to present the case that because the Bill applies to the region of Merseyside and contiguous parts of Cheshire and other areas in the north-west, the locality that it covers is wider than normal.
Hansard for the week of 15 to 23 December 1919 shows that the House debated a carry-over matter. I should like to read out some of the debate because it illustrates the reasoning behind the carry-over procedure.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Member is in serious danger of abusing the procedures of the House. We are considering a specific motion, which deals with whether the Mersey Tunnels Bill should be carried over. I have said more than once that our debate is not about the generality of private Bill procedure and whether it is appropriate. The hon. Member has only one question to tackle tonight. If he strays outside its limits again, I shall apply Standing Orders and cause him to desist.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I have just ruled on that. I shall apply Standing Order No. 42, which will cause the hon. Member to resume his seat if he does not conclude his speech within the proper terms of the motion.
Stephen Hesford: In conclusion, and bearing in mind your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I ask hon. Members to appreciate that the Bill is a bad measure, which is bad for the people of Merseyside. Its promoters have previously benefited to some extent from having a pause for thought. Hon. Members would assist the promoters if they allowed them a further pause.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: My hon. Friend may consider the Bill a bad measure that is bad for Merseyside, but I thoroughly disagree. It is a good Bill, which is exceptionally good for most of the people of Merseyside who stand to gain considerably from it.
I therefore ask hon. Members to reject the suspension, allow the Bill to fall in the normal way, and let the promoters present another Bill if they want to change the regime. If hon. Members agree to the motion to suspend without understanding the implications, the promoters will rush ahead. After acting in haste, they will repent at leisure.