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Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You may be awareI hope that you areof a robust exchange of letters that is taking place between my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister in which serious issues of the Prime Minister's integrity are being raised. Would you be prepared, Mr. Speaker, even at this stage, to allow the Prime Minister to come to the House, explain his position and, if necessary, apologise, as his own ministerial code requires him to do, if the outcome of the letters points in that direction? I hope that you will be prepared to be flexible enough to allow the Prime Minister to do that so that the matter may be cleared up before it gets completely out of hand.
Mr. Speaker: I say to the right hon. Gentleman that that is a hypothetical matter. I am always prepared to take an approach from any Minister. The right hon. Gentleman opened his remarks by saying that I might know about an exchange of letters. I do not know of any exchange of lettersI have been busy here in the Chamber. The best thing to do is to let the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition and the Prime Minister enter into a correspondence course without involving the Speaker.
'(1) The Secretary of State shall by order make a scheme for the making of payments to persons
(a) whose business or employment is materially affected (whether by a reduction in profits or the incurring of losses) by reason of the enactment or coming into force of this Act, or
(b) who are deprived of any services previously provided by hunts and as a result incur and are materially affected by costs, expenses or losses which would not have been incurred but for the enactment or coming into force of this Act.
(2) A scheme shall, in particular, specify
(a) the manner in which the losses, costs, expenses or reductions in profits may be calculated, and
(b) the evidence which may be reasonably required to show the losses, costs, expenses or reductions in profits calculated in accordance with this section.
(1) A scheme shall also, in particular
(a) specify the basis of valuation for determining losses,
(b) specify the amounts of the payments to be made or the basis on which such amounts are to be calculated,
(c) provide for the procedure to be followed (including the time within which claims must be made and the provisions of information) in respect of claims under the scheme and for the determination of such claims.
(4) Before making a scheme under this section, the Secretary of State shall consult such persons as appear to him to be likely to be entitled to payments under such a scheme and such organisations as appear to him to represent such persons.
(5) Subsection (6) applies to any dispute as to a person's entitlement to payments under a scheme or the amounts of any such payments which
(a) has not been resolved within nine months of the day on which the original decision as to entitlements or amounts was notified in writing to the person concerned by the Secretary of State, and
(b) has not been referred by agreement to arbitration.
(6) The dispute shall be referred by the Secretary of State to such appellate body as he deems appropriate by order.
(7) An order under this section shall be made by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.
(8) In this section
"losses" include losses of income and losses of capital;
"materially affected" means affected by a reduction in profit or the incurring of losses, costs or expenses which may be measured by ordinary principles of commercial accountancy.'.[Mr. Gray.]
Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I want to raise a matter of order, not of controversy. A few minutes ago you called the motion to suspend the seven o'clock rule. Am I right in believing that any hon. Member who thought that we should not have the debate could have called a Division to stop the suspension of the seven o'clock rule? As that was not the case, are not the Conservatives making hypocritical arguments?
Mr. Gray: That bogus point of order speaks volumes about the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman). It is absurd that for the first time since the reforms, we are in the Chamber after seven o'clockprobably finishing at 11.45 pmso that we can discuss hunting. No other issuehealth, education, foreign affairs, the warhas kept us until midnight on a Wednesday, but here we are discussing hunting. What an absurdity!
The abolitionists have had their way. They have succeeded in abolishing all forms of hunting, although we intend to challenge that. We are no longer discussing the controversial issues of principlewhether hunting is a good, bad or intermediate thing. The three groups of amendments leave aside the more acrimonious debates that we so often had in the Chamber over the years and address three extremely important consequencespossibly unintentionalof the Bill as drafted. I regret that the truncated time in Committee meant that we were unable to discuss the Bill's structure and the consequences of the way in which it is drafted. So we have tabled amendments that will improve, to a limited extent, how it will work.
The new clause lays down who would apply for compensation and the precise way in which it would be calculated. It is not for me to estimate the figure. Surely it is for the House to decide what is right in the context of the Bill, irrespective of the costs. We are not accountants. We are here to legislate on what is right, decent and honourable. That is what the new clause attempts to do.
Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon): Does my hon. Friend find it rich indeed that Labour Members, who support a Bill that will cause job losses in the countryside, are asking the Opposition to come up with a figure for compensation? If the Government cared at all about those in the countryside who are about to lose their livelihoods, surely they would have studied the possible financial impact of the Bill?
Mr. Gray: My hon. Friend makes a good point. To give the Government some credit, they appointed Lord Burns to consider such matters. They called hearings in Portcullis House for three days to discuss them. The tragedy is that they ignored all the evidence brought before the Minister and replaced it with a totemistic outright ban. They have no idea of the consequences.
Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough): Is it not regrettable that the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks), for whom, on all other occasions, I have the highest respect, has failed to read new clause 1 in its entirety? We have set out the scheme in subsections (2), (3), (4) and (5). The amount will depend on the claimant.
Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire): Does the hon. Gentleman find the comments by the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) even more preposterous when we consider that he was given the opportunity to vote for a specific amendment in Committee which prescribed percentages in terms of compensation? It would have done exactly what he criticises the new clause for not doing, and he voted against it. That is typical of his illogical approach.