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"I might have a background in campaigning but that's not why I'm here. I'm here because of my knowledge of the voluntary sector, my understanding of the lobbying process".
"There's a really big job to be done, whether it's fighting for better legislation or employment practice".
I often agree with the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath), as he knows, on the processes of this House, but that indicates that this particular individual does not have the appropriate advantages, experience and assets to represent Members of Parliament on an authority that will decide the future of allowances and expenses for many years to come and may therefore influence whether people come into this place or not, or whether they stay here. I am leaving and therefore it will have no impact on me, but I have a right and a duty to be concerned about the future of this House. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give me credit for being committed to this House as a democratic assembly, and I will fight to the death to ensure that that is its future.
Mr. Heath: The hon. Gentleman knows that I have frequently given him credit for precisely the attributes that he has rightly assumed to himself. However, this is not a matter for personalities. I did not mention the personal attributes of any of the persons in the motion. This is a matter of procedure, as he knows very well, and this is the procedure that was set down by this House-not anyone else-for names to be brought forward. It is not for us to usurp what was an open and transparent competition for those places. He can reject the lot, but I do not believe that he can take a single name and reject it on the grounds that he has advanced.
Sir Nicholas Winterton: We took advice on the matter, and the Speaker, whose position in the House is very important and whose final decision is the final decision, decided that the amendment, in its amended form, was acceptable to the House.
I believe that I have certain duties, if I feel strongly about one of the appointments. I have the appropriate papers telling me how the individual was appointed to the authority as one of the four other than the chairman, Professor Sir Ian Kennedy. I am well aware of the considerable thought given to the matter, but I believe that in a democracy, an individual has a right, despite the expertise of many of the people involved in the prior process, to air their concerns and reservations.
I believe that we should have an ex-Member of the House with considerably more experience to represent Members of the House during the critical few months while Professor Sir Ian Kennedy decides on the allowances and expenses process that will impact on Members of the House for many years to come.
David Howarth (Cambridge) (LD): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. At the end of the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath), he claimed to move the previous Question-that the Question be not now put. It has been the invariable practice of the Chair to accept that motion, which is a debatable motion, and to have the House discuss it before moving on to amendments of the form that has just been spoken to by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton). What happens in such a debate is that Members can then discuss whether they think that it would be right for the House to decide the matter that evening, or whether it would be better, given the circumstances and possible illegality that my hon. Friend described, for the matter to be moved over to a different day.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I shall respond to the point of order from the hon. Member for Cambridge (David Howarth) first, and then I shall be very happy to listen to the point of order from the hon. Member for Worthing, West (Peter Bottomley).
I say to the hon. Member for Cambridge that my understanding of matters is not the same as his. I do not think that it is correct that the Chair can simply accept the previous Question and, as he put it-if I quote him correctly-move on. It is not a question of accepting it and moving on. If the previous Question were to be accepted by the Chair, it would be debatable and the House would be obliged to debate it. It is not, therefore, a question of moving on. It would have to be debated, and I am not at this point suggesting that it be debated.
For the purposes of clarification, may I establish whether the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) was merely thinking that he was giving way, or had he genuinely concluded his oration?
Sir Nicholas Winterton:
Mr. Speaker, I have concluded. I promised Members of the House to whom I spoke that I would seek-uniquely-to be brief. I was brief,
other than the interventions that I took, but I felt that I had to state my case clearly and transparently, as you would expect me to do.
Mr. Speaker: I am very grateful. I hasten to add that I certainly was not commenting in any judgmental way on the length of the hon. Gentleman's speech, nor expressing surprise. Nevertheless, I am extremely grateful to him for his clarification.
Peter Bottomley: Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The original suggestion to the House was that the original Question be not now put. Given that that was not accepted, we were able to go on with the debate, which would have been the effect of moving a motion that the Question be not now put. I suspect that there was some confusion between saying that the motion should now be put and a motion that was not put, which was the previous business.
Mr. Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, but I am not quite sure that it has caused any fog to evaporate. Some people might think that it has even added to the quantity of fog. The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) was seeking to move the previous Question- [Interruption.] Well, I think that the purport of what the hon. Gentleman was saying was that he wished to move the previous Question-which, if I understand it correctly, was a proposition that the original Question should not now be put. The premise on which that proposition is based is that the original Question would be put on another occasion, but not this evening. I am minded to accept that at this point, and for that matter to be debated. I therefore now propose that Question. [ Interruption. ] Let me try to explain for the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe). The proposition from the hon. Members for Cambridge and for Somerton and Frome is that the original Question should not now be put. That is my understanding of what those hon. Gentlemen are suggesting. They are arguing that the Question on the original motion should not be put tonight. I am happy for that matter to be debated at this point.
Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone and The Weald) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Purely for clarification and so that I am not confused-I do not like being confused-may I ask what impact debating the motion moved by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) will have on the time available to debate the main motion? [ Interruption. ] You did not even hear that point of order, did you?
Miss Widdecombe: Could you explain to me, Mr. Speaker, in words that I can understand, what impact accepting the hon. Gentleman's motion has on the time available for the main motion? Or can I go home?
These are relatively uncharted waters-and certainly for this occupant of the Chair-but the answer to the right hon. Lady is that if, when the Question is
put, the motion moved by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome is accepted, we would then proceed to the next business of the House. What I propose to allow is a short debate on this alternative proposition suggested by the hon. Gentleman-for which there is provision in the procedures of the House. When there has been a short debate on that matter, the proposition can be tested. If the proposition were successful, the effect would be that we would have to proceed to the next business. If it were unsuccessful, I believe that I am right in saying that we would be able to test the original motion- [Interruption.] Indeed: not "we would be able"; in fact, I would be obliged to test the will of the House on the original motion. I know that these are not easy situations, but I hope that that is clear to hon. Members. If anyone else wants to help out with a point of order, he or she is welcome to do so-but I do not want to tempt too many.
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Am I right in thinking that if the proposal of the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) is successful, the main motion would have to be returned to on another day, in another debate? If so, the import of what he is doing is to prevent IPSA from being set up and to prevent us from going forward-or am I wrong?
Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman is right. The matter would have to be returned to by the House on another occasion. It is fair to say-I make this point not evaluatively, but as a statement, I think, of fact-that the intention of the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome is indeed to ensure that no decision on the main motion is reached tonight. It is for that reason that he is proposing an alternative motion.
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. For further clarification, if the motion moved by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) is carried and we move on to the next business, we shall then have to debate the IPSA motion on a future occasion. Presumably you would then be minded to accept another amendment such as that which you have accepted as being lawful and in order tonight-so we would be back to square one, would we not?
Mr. Speaker: I think that it was the late Lord Whitelaw who said that on the whole, he tended to believe in crossing bridges only when he came to them. However, I have noted what the hon. Gentleman has said, which is firmly on the record-and his remarks about the selection of amendments are in no way eccentric.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I ought to preface my remarks by assuming that I shall be speaking to the motion as at the point at which I proposed it-because that has some relevance to the House's proceedings. I am, of course, speaking to the main Question prior to any suggestion that an amendment
had been moved. I seek your advice on that precise point, Mr. Speaker, because it is relevant. May I ask you, on a point of order: is the motion before us timed at the point at which I moved it?
Mr. Speaker: I think it is right to say that the motion became live at the point at which the hon. Gentleman proposed it-or rather, I proposed the Question, having heard the hon. Gentleman's representation. I believe that that was fewer than four minutes ago. I hope that that provides a helpful elucidation for the hon. Gentleman. I repeat-this is why I think it would be good if we discontinued points of order and got on with the substance-that I intend to allow only a short debate on this matter.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): I intend to be extremely brief, Mr. Speaker. We have now established that we are considering whether the original question be not now put-not the amendment. The amendment, in effect, has not now been moved, because this debate started from the point at which I claimed to move the procedural amendment.
Peter Bottomley: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) is suggesting that if an amendment selected by the Speaker is carried, it would invalidate another motion. That would have been out of order, so the amendment would not have been allowed. As it has been allowed, the hon. Gentleman is clearly wrong.
Mr. Heath: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have already made one of the two points I intended to make. In the light of that point, there is an argument that the decision should be put off-I hope until tomorrow-in order for the matter to be resolved, and so that a list of names that is in order and is presented by you, Sir, on the advice of the people whom you are statutorily bound to consult and be advised by, can be put before the House.
If the procedural motion that I have proposed is negatived, it is clear from "Erskine May" that the effect of the "negativing" of that device is to require the Question on the main motion to be put forthwith. If, therefore, the procedural motion that I have moved-that the question be not now put-were to fail, the original Question will be divided upon immediately, without amendment. That is my purpose.
Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con):
The hon. Gentleman's last point contradicts virtually everything in "Erskine May". "Erskine May" is not a book of things that have never changed; everything that is in "Erskine May" is there because it once happened for the first time. What the hon. Gentleman has just suggested to you, Sir, and to the House, is that either his motion-or
rather your motion, Mr. Speaker, on his behalf, as suggested by him-will be carried, in which case we would move on to the next business, or that it will fail, in which case the debate will finish. What he is suggesting is a stratagem that disallows the moving of the amendment and the House's chance to vote on it. If "Erskine May" does not allow that suggestion to be dismissed, I suggest that we should have a page in "Erskine May" that does deal with it-and it can start by reporting what happens this evening.
I accuse the Liberal Democrats of being illiberal and undemocratic. What they are saying-I speak as someone who would have voted against the amendment and in favour of the original suggestions put forward in the motion in the name of the Leader of the House-amounts to digging a hole and jumping into it. I suggest that the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome ask his party leader to come along and say whether he knew in advance that the Liberal spokesman was going to try to play this game. If the Liberal Democrat leader did not know that, why did the hon. Gentleman not consult his leader; and if his leader did know it, why is that leader not here to justify what clearly runs against the purpose of the House of Commons, which is to be able to make a decision on a relatively simple issue-in this case: do we choose Jackie Ballard, or do we choose Elizabeth Peacock?
Let me say to the Liberal Democrats that I hope that the point that they have tried to make, either by means of a speech or by means of a point of order, does not work. And let me say to those who advised you, Mr. Speaker, that they ought to work out whether, this motion having been moved, it is possible to make a decision on the amendment. I suggest that we dismiss the hon. Gentleman's motion-although you have put it very fairly to the House-and then find a way of moving on to the amendment and making a decision on that.
Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I think that the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) is experiencing one of his worst days in the House. He had built up a reputation for securing debate in the House, and for ensuring that Members were here to oppose what was proposed and to put their points of view even if that was against the wishes of the Front Benchers or the Whips. But what we are seeing now is a manoeuvre to stop debate.
You, Mr. Speaker, have already ruled that if the procedural motion is approved, we will move on to the next business. This is, in effect, wrecking and delaying the very development with which that hon. Gentleman claimed earlier that he wanted to proceed forthwith. He accused Conservative Members of trying to delay and wreck it, but the complete opposite is the case. We now see the Liberal Democrats' true colours, and this horrible manoeuvre should be defeated.
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