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House of Commons

Friday 18 May 2007

The House met at half-past Nine o’clock

Prayers

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means took the Chair as Deputy Speaker, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Point of Order

9.33 am

David Howarth (Cambridge) (LD): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. At this point in the day, is it in order to move a motion that the House do sit in private? It has been almost customary for an hon. Member to do so. Today, however, a large number of petitions are before the House. Will you rule on whether it is in order to move a motion that the House do sit in private when the next business is the presentation of petitions? It seems to me that the whole purpose of presenting a petition is that it is done in public, so the two Standing Orders are in conflict—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that he is raising a point of order rather than making a speech. I will now rule on that point of order. Of course, a motion that the House do sit in private can be moved at any stage during today’s debate.

Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon) (Lab): I beg to move, That the House do sit in private.

Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 163 (Motions to sit in private):—

The House proceeded to a Division.

Madam Deputy Speaker: I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the No Lobby.


The House having divided: Ayes 0, Noes 52.
Division No. 118]
[9.35 pm



AYES


Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Andrew Dismore and
Jim Sheridan
NOES


Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Bell, Sir Stuart
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Lorely
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Cousins, Jim
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Duddridge, James
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Fabricant, Michael
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Goldsworthy, Julia
Hammond, Stephen
Harris, Dr. Evan
Heath, Mr. David
Hollobone, Mr. Philip

Howarth, David
Hughes, Simon
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Keeble, Ms Sally
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Maclean, rh David
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Maples, Mr. John
Marshall, Mr. David
McIsaac, Shona
Mudie, Mr. George
Neill, Robert
Norris, Dan
Öpik, Lembit
Pound, Stephen
Reid, Mr. Alan
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Swinson, Jo
Twigg, Derek
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Watson, Mr. Tom
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Winnick, Mr. David
Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Tim Boswell and
Mark Pritchard
Question accordingly negatived.
18 May 2007 : Column 876
9.50 am

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. On Wednesday, in response to a point of order from me regarding today’s debate, Mr. Speaker said that everyone will get a voice in this Chamber, which is of course to be expected. Will there be a proper opportunity to debate fully the important issues addressed by the private Member’s Bill that we are about to discuss, and which is of crucial importance to the standing of Parliament? You will have noticed, Madam Deputy Speaker, that a number of Ministers and Whips are present. That places us ordinary Back Benchers at a disadvantage—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is beginning to debate the Bill rather than make his point of order, which I shall respond to. As always, the occupant of the Chair will ensure that there is fair debate and will judge that on the conduct of the debate during this morning’s proceedings.

Mr. Dismore: Further to an earlier point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker, as the Liberal Democrats are so keen on presenting their petitions, would it not be appropriate for them to inform the House why they were so tardy in the Lobby that we had to wait for the Serjeant at Arms to chase them out?

Madam Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order for the Chair.

David Maclean (Penrith and The Border) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I was going to raise the same point as the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore). Although it has been ruled as a non-point of order, it is still a valid debating point.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I shall now proceed to take petitions, to enable Members who wish to present them to do so.

Norman Baker (Lewes) (LD): I have six petitions, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I seek your guidance as to whether they should be presented in the order in which they were submitted. Is that important?

Madam Deputy Speaker: All the petitions are down to be presented at the commencement of proceedings, as provided for in the Standing Orders.


18 May 2007 : Column 877

Petitions

Lewes Bypass

9.53 am

Norman Baker (Lewes) (LD): The first petition is from Councillor James MacCleary and others of like disposition and concerns noise from the Lewes bypass, which is a matter that affects many of my constituents and which would be eminently curable if the Department for Transport were to take action by supplying a better road surface.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

Fingerprinting of Children

9.53 am

Norman Baker: The second petition is also from Councillor James MacCleary and others of like disposition. [Interruption.] The petition expresses concern about the increasingly common practice of fingerprinting children in schools. [Interruption.] I hope that you can hear me above the background noise, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. We are trying to proceed with the petitions.

Norman Baker: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The petition notes that an average of 20 educational establishments in each local education authority are now fingerprinting pupils and it regards that as an intrusion on basic civil liberties.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

Lewes-Uckfield Railway Line

9.54 am

Norman Baker: The next petition—[Hon. Members: “Which one is this?] It is the third petition, to answer the question from the Labour Benches. [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Too many conversations are breaking out across the Chamber.

Norman Baker: I am grateful for your support, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The third petition is from Councillor Ann De Vecchi and others of like disposition and concerns a local matter that has had considerable cross-party support
18 May 2007 : Column 878
over a long period: the campaign to re-open the Lewes-Uckfield railway line which East Sussex county council closed in 1969.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

Farmers (Milk Prices)

9.55 am

Norman Baker: The fourth petition is also from Councillor Ann De Vecchi and others of like disposition and represents the concerns of the farming community in my constituency, in particular about the drop in milk prices paid to farmers.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon) (Lab): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Although my eyesight might be failing slightly, as I look across from my seat at the documents that the hon. Gentleman is reading out, it appears that there are only about half a dozen names on each petition, and I suspect that the handwriting is the same on each, as are the signatures. When the hon. Gentleman reads out his petitions will he tell us how many different people have signed each of them?

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. If the petitions are being presented today in this Chamber that means that those petitions are in order.

Seaford Drill Hall

9.56 am

Norman Baker: The fifth petition is from Councillor Jon Freeman and others of like disposition. It is concerned with the future of the Drill hall on Broad street in Seaford. The building is owned by the Ministry of Defence and it has been sitting empty for some considerable time in a dilapidated state in what is an important town centre location.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.


18 May 2007 : Column 879

International Whaling Commission (Japan)

9.57 am

Norman Baker: The final petition is from Councillor James MacCleary and others of like disposition and concerns the practice of the Japanese Government of influencing other countries—inappropriately, the petitioners believe—to support Japan’s position in negotiations at the International Whaling Commission to end the moratorium on whaling.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

David Maclean (Penrith and The Border) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) has a reputation for taking a high-minded view on freedom of information. Doubt has been cast on the number of signatures on the petitions and their validity. Will he publish them or—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I have already ruled on that point of order. Let me repeat the ruling: if petitions are being presented in this House, they meet all the necessary requirements.

Community Hospitals

9.58 am

Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): It gives me great pleasure to introduce two petitions representing local concerns in the Brecon and Radnorshire constituency. The first of them is from Councillor William Powell and others of like disposition and expresses concern about the possible closure of community hospitals in the area.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

National Lottery Funding

10 am

Mr. Roger Williams: Councillor William Powell and others of like disposition are concerned about the lack of funding for local cultural events because lottery funding has been diverted to the 2012 Olympics.


18 May 2007 : Column 880

The petition states:


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